– Up, up and away: U.S. employers can expect an 8.5 percent increase in their medical costs next year due in some part to the health care reform law, the consulting firm PwC said in its annual report. The report points to three main drivers of health care costs, two of which are exacerbated by the new law: Consolidation among hospitals and physicians because of the law is predicted to reduce competition and increase rates; increased cost-shifting to private plans as Medicare and Medicaid rates fall further behind the rates private plans pay to providers; and stress-induced illnesses following the recession.
– Georgia’s sole proprietors and self-employed will be able to buy out-of-state health insurance policies under legislation signed this week by Governor Nathan Deal. The new law allows insurance companies with licenses to operate in Georgia to offer policies sold in other states.
Energy and environment
– A study released this week by Athens (Ga.)-based Forisk Consulting evaluates the viability of U.S. wood biofuel production and finds that it “will fail to contribute substantively” to the Environmental Protection Agency’s renewable fuel standard targets by 2011 and 2022. Researchers looked at 36 projects and 12 wood-conversion technologies and found an 11-year-gap between announced production and commercial viability. “To date, no project exists that can produce, at scale, cellulosic ethanol or related fuels economically. Production costs are too high. … Financing is scarce. Projects rely on grants, loan guarantees and subsidies,” the study notes.
– Save the date: The Foundation’s 20th anniversary celebration is scheduled for the evening of Monday, October 24. Details to follow.
– Save the date: The Foundation’s second annual Legislative Policy Briefing is scheduled for Friday, September 30. Last year, more than 250 people attended to hear nearly three dozen experts discuss Georgia public policy. Details to follow.
– Were you at the Foundation’s recent event with Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute? Visit the Foundation’s Facebook page and view the event photographs! Go to http://tinyurl.com/64h5sbv. View the speech at www.youtube.com/watch?v=gcXNSu1I8J4.
– “Three environmental activists and a duck walk into a bar and start talking global warming with a dozen people who have no formal education in climate science. Sound like the beginning of a bad joke? Actually, it’s not. It’s what the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) would have us believe is an expert, objective, scientifically authoritative panel qualified to produce its latest report, ‘America’s Climate Choices.'” – James Taylor, Heartland Institute
– What choice now? The Georgia Supreme Court ruled 4-3 this week that the statewide Charter Schools Commission is unconstitutional, raising serious questions about the future of the 16 schools approved by the Commission. To read editor Mike Klein’s ongoing coverage of the aftermath at The Forum, the Foundation’s interactive Web site, click on this link: http://forum.georgiapolicy.org/. (Also, read my commentary on the issue today at www.georgiapolicy.org.)
–The good news is that Chief Executive magazine ranks Georgia fifth in the nation for doing business in 2011, up two places since 2010. The bad news is that the four states ahead of Georgia are all in the South: (1) Texas, also No. 1 in 2010; (2) North Carolina, No. 2 in 2010; (3) Florida, No. 6 in 2010; (4) Tennessee, No. 3 in 2010. California is last. One CEO warns: “Make sure your tax scheme does not drive business to another state. Have a regulatory environment and regulators that encourage good business – not one that punishes businesses for minor infractions.” Source: ChiefExecutive.net
– Crunching the stimulus program numbers: The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act destroyed private-sector jobs, according to a study released this week by Ohio State University. Economists Timothy Conley and Bill Dupor estimate the ARRA created or saved 450,000 government-sector jobs and destroyed or forestalled 1 million private sector jobs. The best-case scenario has the Act creating or saving a net 659,000 jobs, mainly in government. Access the study at http://tinyurl.com/6bj5w9k.
Taxes and Spending
– Spending cuts in Washington’s vast regulatory bureaucracy would get the feds off the backs of job creators and save taxpayers money. Read my opinion editorial from Monday’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution here: http://tinyurl.com/6fp44jt.
– Tax cuts: There’s a lack of political urgency in Washington to cut the U.S. corporate tax rate, and a lack of understanding about the economic benefits of such a cut, according to Scott Hodge, president of the Tax Foundation. He points out 10 benefits, among them higher long-term economic growth, improved U.S. competitiveness and a boost to productivity, investment and entrepreneurship. Read more at www.taxfoundation.org/files/sr192.pdf
– The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is proposing to “eliminate the ‘white potato’ – defined as any variety but the sweet potato – from federally subsidized school breakfasts and to limit them sharply at lunch,” according to The Wall Street Journal. It’s part of an ongoing effort to force schools to serve more “nutrient-rich” vegetables and get rid of French fries and Tater Tots. Last year, the USDA also removed white potatoes from a list of permissible food items that can be purchased with vouchers under the Department’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC).
– Good news for metro Atlanta? A draft of the Obama Administration’s proposed surface transportation reauthorization bill would allow states more flexibility to toll interstates, Tollroadsnews reports. It would end the “pilot programs” with their detailed supervision and numerical limits and substitute broader approval in two major categories: metropolitan congestion reduction and interstate system improvement. The draft also proposes ending access for “green” single-occupant vehicles (such as hybrids and alternative fuel vehicles) to high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes.
– Leading the way: Georgia is the only state in the Southeast to garner the highest rating of “Leading the Way” in a transportation study conducted by The Pew Center on the States in conjunction with the Rockefeller Foundation. This distinction was made in terms of transportation investment strategies that linked to their impact on jobs and commerce, also known as economic development. Referencing Georgia’s Statewide Transportation Plan, which includes a comprehensive freight and logistics plan, the study recognized Georgia for taking a business case approach to planning and investments. Let’s hope the state will continue to lead the way by prioritizing projects that improve mobility and reduce congestion.
– Visit www.georgiapolicy.org to read the Foundation’s latest commentary, “A Temporary Setback for Education in Georgia.”
Have a great weekend.
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The Foundation’s Criminal Justice Initiative pushed the problems to the forefront, proposed practical solutions, brought in leaders from other states to share examples, and created this nonpartisan opportunity. (At the signing of the 2012 Criminal Justice Reform bill.)