Then and Now: In 1991, the year the Georgia Public Policy Foundation was established, metro Atlanta’s peak-hour congestion delays averaged 35 hours per commuter and the cost averaged $725. By 2014 (latest data) the cost was $1,130 per commuter for 52 hours of delay annually. The good news? The number of commuters increased 66 percent, the cost of delay grew 55 percent but congestion increased “only” 49 percent. We’re making a dent! Source: Texas Transportation Institute
Quotes of Note
“The property which every man has in his own labor, as it is the original foundation of all other property, so it is the most sacred and inviolable. The patrimony of a poor man lies in the strength and dexterity of his hands; and to hinder him from employing this strength and dexterity of his hands; and to hinder him from employing this strength and dexterity in what manner he thinks proper without injury to his neighbor is a plain violation of this most sacred property.” – Adam Smith, “Wealth of Nations”
Criminal justice reform
Sunshine state protects citizens: Florida legislators unanimously approved legislation that adds more citizen protections during civil asset forfeiture by law enforcement agencies; Gov. Rick Scott has signed it into law. (A Georgia bill to require a conviction before property is seized failed in the Legislature.)
Simpler is better: The “Panama Papers” tax shelter scandal underscores the need for tax reform. High tax rates encourage tax avoidance strategies. Georgia legislation that would have lowered the personal income tax rate to 5.4 and reduced six tax brackets to one passed the Senate but got no House hearing in 2016.
Tax Freedom Day: The deadline to file your taxes is April 18, but April 24 is Tax Freedom Day, the day Americans have earned enough to pay the federal, state and local tax bill for the year. In 2016, collectively, Americans will spend more on taxes than they will on food, clothing, and housing combined. For Georgia, Tax Freedom Day is April 17. Source: Tax Foundation
A lesson on costs: The average amount of annual in-state tuition and fees at Georgia’s public four-year universities grew more than 31 percent over the last five years (more than all but one state). But average tuition and fees, at $8,447, still rank below the national average: 31st in the nation. Source: College Board
Charter success: New research finds charter school graduates 12 percent more likely to persist through their second year in college and, by their mid-twenties, earning 12 percent more than district school counterparts. The research also confirmed earlier findings that charter school students are more likely to graduate from high school and enroll in college. Source: Education Week
In defense of choice: Educational options are important to military families, who are frequently relocated during deployment. An estimated 3.4 percent of the overall K-12 student population is homeschooled, but among the 1.2 million children of active-duty military parents, more than 6 percent are home-schooled. Georgia legislation that would have offered vouchers for children of active-duty military died in Senate and House committees in 2016. Source: Education Week
Jobs: Private-sector employment in Georgia has increased by 5.4 percent since the pre-recession date of December, 2007 (the 13th highest rate in the nation) and by 11.3 percent since the post-recession date of January, 2009 (11th highest rate), according to a Joint Economic Committee Report. The report notes, “Since February 2010, the national low point for private-sector employment, Georgia businesses have added 520,000 jobs (an increase of 16.6 percent).”
Innovation: The Food and Drug Administration has approved the first wireless pacemaker. It is implanted in the heart via a catheter, eliminating the need for surgery or wires to connect to an external generator. Source: Reuters
Realization: Seattle, Wash., agrees with Peachtree City, Ga., that broadband is best left to the private sector. “When I came into office, I was very excited about the possibility of municipal broadband until the study came back and indicated it would be literally the largest tax increase in Seattle,” Mayor Ed Murray said. Source: Seattle Times
Day late, dollar short: Three months after the Honolulu City Council approved a five-year extension of a half-penny general excise tax, the Council was told the extra $1.5 billion may not cover the rising costs of the 20-mile rail project, which is two years behind schedule and, at $6.5 billion, already more than a billion dollars over budget. Source: Hawaii News Now
A shot in the dark: A gun store in California was directed by inspectors to remove three vinyl decals on the outside of the shop because they depicted handguns. (A rifle decal was OK.) The agent told the owner that if he continued to advertise handguns to the public, he could lose his license to sell firearms. The name of the store: Tracy Rifle and Pistol. Source: Wall Street Journal
Bagging plastic law? California Gov. Jerry Brown signed the first statewide law banning plastic retail bags in 2014, but a referendum is on the state’s November ballot on suspending the ban. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports plastic retail bags comprise less than 0.5 percent of the municipal solid waste stream. In addition, 90 percent of Americans report reusing plastic bags at least once in their homes. Source: American Legislative Exchange Council
This month in the archives: In April 1996, the Foundation published, “Urgent Reform Needed for Georgia’s Abused, Neglected, Foster, and Adopted Children.” It proposed, “The Department of Human Resources should be made to compete with private agencies for the privilege of caring for foster children.” Two pilot programs for public-private partnerships approved in 2014 have yet to be implemented.
Foundation in the News: Read the upcoming Sunday edition of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution for the Foundation’s take on the legislative session. The Marietta Daily Journal quoted Benita Dodd in an article on school superintendent salaries.
Visit georgiapolicy.org to read our latest commentary, “Georgia at the Intersection of Education and Aging,” by Kelly McCutchen.
Have a great weekend!
Kelly McCutchen and Benita Dodd
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