Energy Prices on the Rise in the Southeast
According to Raleigh, NC based utility Progress Energy, electricity rates are set to rise substantially in 2009. An article in today's News and Observer indicates that rates for Progress customers in Florida will go up by 31% while North Carolina customers will see an increase of 16%. The company attributes increases to higher fuel cost, investment in nuclear, and clean-air technology updates at existing coal plants.
In ACCE surveys, energy consistently ranks at the top on a list priority policy issues. If you are concerned about the impact that supply and price of energy will have on your local economy, join us for ACCE's upcoming Energy Issue Jam on September 25. Issue Jams are an interactive web and phone based teleseminar. Speaker and registration details about the Energy Issue Jam will be available soon.
Plastic Bag Ban On Hold in Arizona
Kingman, AZ, a city 100 miles southeast of Las Vegas, recently postponed a decision on whether to impose a tax or outright ban on plastic bags. The Kingman Clean City Commission decided to wait another year after the managers of several area grocery retailers explained their "Bag Central Station" education campaign to promote reusable bags and plastic bag recycling. Click to read Tax on Bags Trashed for Now from the Kingman Daily Miner.
For an interesting analysis of the plastic bag issue check out Bootleggers, Baptists, and the Irish Plastic Bag Tax, a 2005 blog entry from the Tax Foundation.
Frequent readers of Chamber Executive, ACCE's authoritative journal for and about chambers of commerce, may recall that the plastic bag ban issue was a featured example in Lisa Itamura's article Catching and Tracking Contagious Issues, the cover story for the Fall 2007 issue.
Arizona Sales Tax Fails to Make the Ballot
One of the most frequent conversation topics on ACCE's Government Relations Division Policy Forum conference calls is transportation funding. It seems that everyone is looking for money to pay for road expansion or commuter rail.
Citizens in Arizona lost a chance this November to vote whether or not to fund transportation projects in the state through a 1 percent sales tax increase.
Supporters of the Transportation and Infrastructure Moving Arizona's Economy (TIME) measure collected well over the requisite 153,000 signatures to put the measure on the ballot. However, many signatures were invalided by the Maricopa County Superior Court because of incorrect addresses, dates and other issues. The Arizona Supreme Court upheld the decision and the tax proposal will not be on the ballot in November.
Click HERE to read the article from the Phoenix Business Journal.
Abolish State Income Tax?
The Buckeye Institute, a Columbus, Ohio based think-tank "devoted to individual liberty, economic freedom, personal responsibility and limited government in Ohio," is calling for lawmakers to phase out state income tax over the next ten years. Their study, released on Monday, asserts that eliminating the state income tax would result in 3.5% economic growth and 6% population increase for Ohio, and would help reverse the declining economic trend in the state.
Ohio's $9.1 billion in income tax collected annually represents 47% of Ohio's total tax revenue in a given year. The Buckeye Institute claims that growth resulting from the abolished income tax would make up the lost state revenue in 5 years or less.
Click HERE for a press release from the Buckeye Institute.
Click HERE for the article from the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Just FYI: according to the IRS, 9 states currently do not have state income tax: Alaska, Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming.
Special Session Recap
Back on my June 23 entry I mentioned three states that called special legislative sessions; Kentucky, Virginia and Nevada . Here is a quick update:
Kentucky's pension-reform bill was signed into law during the special session. Click HERE for a list of news stories that provide a chronology.
In Virginia, Governor Kaine's special session to get transportation funding was not successful. The bill would have imposed new statewide taxes for highway maintenance and regional taxes in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads to address pressing transportation challenges in those high traffic areas. High gas prices are partially to blame for the bill's failure. Click HERE for an article that gives a detailed postmortem.
The Nevada legislature met for less than 12 hours and passed a 3.3% ($106 million) budget cut to assuage deficit concerns. Cuts were made to numerous state agency operating budgets.
Immigration Proposal Gaining Support in Washington State
For months here at the Clearinghouse Blog we've mentioned states that have taken federal inaction on immigration as impetus to pass their own bills. (Click for past immigration policy entries.) According to an article in today's Seattle Times, some in Washington would have the Evergreen State be first on the west coast to pass a sweeping immigration bill.
The proposal, Initiative 409, is championed by a coalition that includes the Minutemen Civil Defense Corps. Among other measures targeting undocumented immigrants, it would mandate use of E-Verify by all employers and hold companies responsible for verifying their employee's legal status. Supporters are currently trying to collect the nearly 225,000 petition signatures necessary to force the legislature to act on the proposal.
Click HERE to read the full article.
Its important to note that a pending federal court ruling about Oklahoma House Bill 1804, passed in 2007 but currently under injunction, may challenge the constitutionality of similar state immigration bills.
Early College Schools in Texas and Recruiting Teachers in the Rural Midwest
I nearly missed my train this morning because, for the first time in months, I was caught behind a school bus. Besides reminding me to leave the house 5 minutes earlier, the big, yellow bus is a sign that our public schools, the great American equalizer, are back in session.
The papers were littered with school related stories this morning, here are two of the more interesting ones.
Click HERE to link to a Dallas Morning News story about an early college high school that is helping students pave a pathway to higher education. Many of the school's students would not normally take advantage of Advanced Placement or other college credit courses in high school.
Click HERE to link to a Lincoln Journal Star article detailing the difficulty that rural districts have recruiting teachers, and the creative strategies some administrators are using to fill vacant classroom spots.
Stricter Air Pollution Rules in Wisconsin
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported this week that the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources will likely issue a new, tougher rule regulating emissions. The rule would require utilities to cut mercury emissions by 90% by 2015, but would allow them to push back the deadline to 2021 if they agree to also cut nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide.
The Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce opposes the rule and has sued the state on procedural grounds.
Click HERE to access the article.
Kentucky Chamber Tackles Post-Secondary Education Affordability
Last week, Dave Adkisson, President and CEO of the Kentucky Chamber, unveiled a plan to ensure that students in the Commonwealth who want to attend college will be able to pay for it.
The Guaranteed Affordability Program, or GAP, would to split the cost of college among students, families, schools and the government. Under GAP, students would contribute an amount equal to what they could earn from a minimum wage job with a 40-hour work week during the summer and a 10 hour per week during the school year. That contribution could come from scholarships. Families would contribute an amount determined by federal financial aid guidelines, and the state would make up the difference.
Adkisson presented the ambitious plan to a legislative subcommittee for consideration and called on lawmakers to have the system in place by 2010.
To learn more about the Kentucky Chamber's plan check out their press release and the following news articles:
Click to link to the Kentucky Chamber press release.
Click to read the story from the Lexington Herald-Leader.
Public Salaries, Public Knolwdge?
As Governor Schwarzenegger's plan to save California's budget by temporarily cutting state employee pay to the federal minimum is held up in courts (see the article from today's Sacramento Bee), a debate is brewing in Kansas over whether public employee's salaries should be readily available to the public.
Late last week, the Wichita Eagle uploaded to their website a searchable database containing the names, positions and salaries of all state employees. While state employee salaries are a matter of public record, this web database makes it possible to easily compare the salaries of every middle school Principal in the county right from your desk. While the move has stirred a debate over personal privacy vs. taxpayer accountability, it has also generated major web traffic for the newspaper.
To read viewpoints about publicly accessible salaries, click HERE.