February 20: The deadline is today to register for “Pension Solvency and Public Education: The Case for Reforming Georgia Teacher Pensions,” a Leadership Breakfast on Tuesday, February 20. Speakers are Len Gilroy, Senior Managing Director of the Pension Integrity Project and Director of Government Reform at Reason Foundation, and Georgia State Rep. Chuck Martin (R-Alpharetta), Chairman of the House Budget and Fiscal Oversight Committee. 8 a.m. at the Georgian Club. $30. Registration and information here.
February 26: The Foundation co-sponsors Georgia Justice Day 2018 at the State Capitol, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., highlighting criminal justice reforms, juvenile justice reforms and removing barriers to re-entry. Find out more here.
Quotes of note
“Today, the nation needs somewhat increased infrastructure spending to increase productivity by reducing road and port congestions and boosting the velocity of economic activity. Unfortunately, this subject is not immune to the rhetorical extravagance that infects all of today’s political discourse.” – George Will
“Free speech is hard. The fact that John Adams, of all people, could sign the Alien and Sedition Acts is proof of that. That’s why we should be grateful this key right is enshrined in the Constitution. Even then, as we see throughout our history and right down to the present day, we must fight to maintain it.” – Edwin J. Feulner
“The rifle itself has no moral stature, since it has no will of its own. Naturally, it may be used by evil men for evil purposes, but there are more good men than evil, and while the latter cannot be persuaded to the path of righteousness by propaganda, they can certainly be corrected by good men with rifles.” – Jeff Cooper
Education Savings Accounts: New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu embraces greater choice in education. “I think we can all agree that a one-size-fits all approach doesn’t always work for each student, which is why our education system must give parents choice and flexibility,” he said in his State of the State address. “Education Savings Accounts will be our most significant step yet, in giving parents and children the ability to choose the education path that is best suited for them.” Source: Union Leader
Reducing costs: More than 219,300 students have benefited directly from the University System of Georgia’s free online textbook initiative, Affordable Learning Georgia. It is saving students more than $18 million a year and, to date, more than $31 million on textbook costs, USG representatives told Georgia legislators this week.
Affordable care? As high-deductible insurance policies proliferate, physicians are experiencing an increase in bad debt, according the AthenaHealth Network. Experts point to higher deductibles for patients with commercial insurance, which accounts for 71.5 percent of physician revenue, and a challenging economic environment in rural areas, where bad debt has increased 8 percent over two years.
Transit’s decline: “Living in a household without a vehicle is perhaps the strongest single predictor of transit use,” according to a study prepared for the Southern California Association of Governments. It notes that since 1990, billions of dollars were spent to add more than 100 miles of light and heavy rail in Los Angeles County and more than 530 miles of commuter rail regionwide, but transit ridership remains below 1985 levels. It concludes, “the most significant factor is increased motor vehicle access.” For comparison: The city of Atlanta has 16 percent of households without a car compared with about 12 percent in Los Angeles; that drops to 7.6 percent in Sandy Springs.)
Pension pain: The nation’s 100 largest public pension funds are under 75 percent funded to meet their projected liabilities, Tom Giovanetti writes in the Dallas Morning News. “This is a taxpayer catastrophe in the making, since for most public pensions, taxpayers are required to make up any gaps or shortfalls in benefits to public retirees.” (The Foundation’s upcoming event tackles the Teacher Retirement System.)
Who needs rent control? Portland, Ore., has a “relocation benefit” law. Landlords can evict tenants without cause and they can raise the rent, but no-cause evictions or rent hikes of at least 10 percent require landlords to pay tenants between $2,900 and $4,500 to help them relocate. So much for private property rights. Source: Portland Mercury
Ups and downs: Median U.S. household income was $59,039 in 2016, up 3.2 percent over 2015 and 8.5 percent higher than 2014, according to the Census Bureau. Immigrants did even better: In 2016, households maintained by a naturalized citizen ($63,894) had the highest median household income, followed by households maintained by a native-born person ($59,781). The official poverty rate in 2016 was 12.7 percent, down from 13.5 percent in 2015 and 14.8 percent in 2014.
This month in the archives: In February 10 years ago, the Foundation published, “End the Education Numbers Game: Let Funding Follow Students.” It noted, “Georgia must enable true public school choice for every child, regardless of wealth or geography, by supporting the principle that the money should follow the child.”
YouTube: Former U.S. Senator Phil Gramm, a Georgia native and Foundation Freedom Award winner, joined former Congressman Kent Hance for a fascinating keynote conversation at the recent Policy Orientation event of our sister think tank, the Texas Public Policy Foundation. View it here on YouTube. (The Georgia Public Policy Foundation’s annual Legislative Policy Forum is modeled after TPPF’s event.)
Foundation in the news: The Atlanta-Journal Constitution quoted Benita Dodd in an article about a proposal to provide SNAP recipients with boxes of food.
Have a great weekend.
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I thank you for what you do. For 15 years you’ve been researching and writing on issues that matter. You take on tough questions, you apply innovative thinking, you push for action, and you do it all without regard to politics.