Friday Facts: July 1st, 2011

Friday Facts
July 1st, 2011 by Leave a Comment

It’s Friday!

Quotations

– “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. – That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, – That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.” – Declaration of Independence
– “My God!  How little do my countrymen know what precious blessings they are in possession of, and which no other people on earth enjoy!” – Thomas Jefferson

Health care
– Here’s your sign: The global drug industry cut research and development spending for the first time ever in 2010, after decades of relentless increases, and the pace of decline looks set to quicken this year, Thomson Reuters reports. Overall expenditure on discovering and developing new medicines amounted to an estimated $68 billion last year, down nearly 3 percent from the $70 billion spent in both 2008 and 2009. The decline reportedly reflects a growing disillusionment with poor returns on pharmaceutical R&D.
– The case for waivers: As Medicaid enrolments and costs soar, Georgia is among at least 33 states reducing Medicaid provider fees for fiscal year 2012, which starts today, according to a report by the National Association of Budget Officers. States can reduce provider fees without running afoul of federal regulations, but cutting the number of people served by Medicaid is generally prohibited by the new national health law. So is denying coverage to patients for visits to hospitals and doctors, although “optional” benefits such as prescription drugs and mental health treatment can be dropped.  Source: Stateline

Education– Private schools served about 10 percent, or 5.5 million, of the country’s K-12 students in the 2009-10 school year, down from a peak of 12 percent in 1996, according to the “Condition of Education” report published by the National Center for Education Statistics. The federal report did not include data on voucher-funded enrollments, but the Alliance for School Choice calculates that 67,267 students were enrolled in voucher programs in the 2010-11 school year, and that 123,544 students were enrolled in tax-credit-scholarship programs. A report in Education Week warns that private school capacity issues loom as voucher support grows. Source: Education Week
– The achievement gap between Hispanic and white students has not narrowed over 20 years, according to the National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP).  It found that while scores increased, with 2009 fourth- and eighth-graders more proficient in reading and math than 1990-year students, the achievement gaps remained more than 20 points.  Georgia’s white and Hispanic students posted smaller-than-national-average gaps in fourth- and eighth-grade math but it did not beat the national average in fourth- and eighth-grade reading.  Click on this link for highlights: http://tinyurl.com/3emxcom.
– Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has signed into law the biggest ever expansion to the state’s school choice programs. Walker enacted a significant expansion of the popular Milwaukee Parental Choice Program. The state’s 2011-2013 budget contains language that increases income eligibility for the program and removes the cap on the number of participants. The budget also allows children in Milwaukee to attend the private schools of their parents’ choice – anywhere in Wisconsin.

Taxes and spending
– Tax reform for 
Georgia came close to being enacted during the 2011 legislative session but leaders backed away during the closing hours. New research from Georgia State University’s Andrew Young School of Policy Studies continues to build the case for moving toward consumption taxes and away from revenue based on income taxes.

Transportation
– China’s $300 billion high-speed rail network is held up as a global model by proponents, who declare it an economic development engine. Detractors focus on corruption and safety problems and pricey tickets that doom the trains to run half-empty, straining the national budget for years to come. Ding Yuan, an accounting professor at China Europe International Business School in Shanghai, puts it this way: “Physically, they are good assets. Financially, they are all black holes.” Source: Wall Street Journal
– The United States spends about $160 billion annually on highways, with about one-fourth of that total coming from the federal government.  Federal highway spending is funded mainly through gas and other fuel taxes that are paid into the Highway Trust Fund. In recent years, however, the amount of money Congress has spent out of the general fund has exceeded the dedicated trust funds set aside for highway spending, says Veronique de Rugy, a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.
– Toll road 101: Tollroadsnews looked at the enormous cost difference between Maryland’s Inter County Connector (MDICC) and Texas’ 121 Sam Rayburn Tollway (TX121SRT), both of which improve access to suburban nodes of development. The MDICC is clearly the more modest road – fewer interchanges, shorter length and no frontage roadways – yet was almost four times more than expensive at $2.5 billion versus $639 million for the somewhat larger TX121SRT. Among the suggested reasons: resistance to the road in Maryland whereas Texas argued over who should build it; an active, competitive construction industry in road-friendly Texas; that Maryland is a union closed shop for highway contracting and a “smart growth” planning state, which raises the price of land and right of way. Read more – including the disclaimer on the calculations – at http://tinyurl.com/69xk7xn.

Events
– Save the date: Join Navy Seal and award-winning author Eric Greitens to honor the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attack and discuss how Georgia can lead the nation in programs and services for our military families. September 1 at the Cobb Galleria Centre. 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.
– Save the date: 
The Foundation’s 20th anniversary celebration is scheduled for the evening of Monday, October 24. Details to follow.

– Visit www.georgiapolicy.org to read the Foundation’s latest commentary, “Global Warming Goes Around, Comes Around,” by Harold Brown.

Have a great Independence Day weekend.

Kelly McCutchen

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