REGISTER NOW! One Day. Four issues. Sixteen Experts. And just one week to the 2018 Georgia Legislative Policy Forum! The daylong conference at the Renaissance Atlanta Waverly Hotel on Friday, September 7, features an exciting lineup of experts on state-focused reforms in criminal justice, health care, education and teacher pensions! Registration is open to the public and includes breakfast and lunch. $100. Register here. Find out more in commentaries here and here or view the agenda here.
Our condolences to the friends, family and colleagues of U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who lost his battle with cancer on August 25. He was the keynote speaker at the Foundation’s 15th anniversary celebration. Read his remarks here.
One comment McCain made that evening in 2006 stands out:
Republicans have held congressional majorities for 12 years, and the presidency for six. A danger to all majority parties, but particularly to conservatives since it is so antithetical to our core philosophy, is the insidious, creeping conceit that to be the governing party we must become the party of government. That’s what happens when you come to value your incumbency more than your principles.
September 21: “Rethinking American Highways,” a Policy Briefing Luncheon and Book Forum with Bob Poole, director of Transportation Policy at Reason Foundation. 11:30 a.m., Georgian Club. $50. Register here; a limited number of Poole’s books are available to order.
Quotes of note
“Our nation has lost a great patriot and our military lost one of our most ardent supporters.” – Jim Mattis, Secretary of Defense, on the passing of U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona
“As long as politicians and central bankers consider it their business to manipulate market prices, of which interest rates are among the most essential, economy-wide imbalances and discoordinations in the market economy will keep reappearing. And no doubt ‘capitalism’ and the profit motive will end up being tagged as the culprits, while all the time the guilty parties live and work in the halls of government offices and in central banks.” – Richard M. Ebeling
Liability: The unfunded liabilities of state-administered pensions now exceed $6 trillion, according to a comprehensive survey by the American Legislative Exchange Council of 280 state-administered public-pension plans. The amount increased by $433 billion in the last 12 months, National Review reports.
Taking a bite out of K-12: “The rising cost of benefits poses problems for educators and legislators alike,” writes Max Marchitello of Bellwether Education Partners. “For teachers, higher benefit costs do not necessarily mean they’re receiving more valuable pensions or more generous health care. It is instead more likely that the state is spending more to pay down debts. Worse still, growing benefit costs make salary increases far less likely because states, by and large, are not increasing their K-12 investments.”
Attend the 2018 Georgia Legislative Policy Forum to learn about funding challenges for Georgia’s Teachers Retirement System.
Taxes and spending
Homeownership: Homebuyers worry about the down payment and the mortgage, but there are numerous “hidden” costs to owning a home. These include property taxes, insurance and maintenance. New research by Zillow and Thumbtack puts that cost for an Atlanta homeowner at $10,301 a year; the average for the nation is about $9,400 a year. That’s about $780 a month on top of a monthly mortgage payment.
Fiscal checkup: Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is challenging investigators as they conduct an audit on the Department of Defense’s more than $2.4 trillion in department assets. “We are conducting the first audit in the department’s history and I want that audit to find problems. It’s the only way we will be able to craft effective solutions. This ensures we uphold the trust that Congress and the American people have placed in us to spend their tax dollars wisely,” he said. Source: RealClearPolitics
Tariffs worth the paper: Saying the import of Canadian newsprint does not harm U.S. paper producers, the U.S. International Trade Commission voted this week to eliminate President Trump’s tariffs on Canadian uncoated groundwood paper (newsprint). The move was hailed as a major win for newspapers across the country. Source: Fortune
Cost-conscious Miami? After more than a decade of bickering over whether to expand Miami’s Metrorail rail route at an estimated cost of $1.3 billion, leaders voted Thursday to settle on a more achievable option: a $243 million bus rapid transit system, which mimics rail but is rubber-tired and would run on 20 miles of existing dedicated lanes. Source: Miami Herald
Audit raises questions: With MARTA set to receive a massive injection of funds for capital projects including rail, independent and internal audits uncovered by WSB-TV raise serious questions about the transit agency’s competence to manage the new projects. Among the findings: poorly written work scopes, resulting in delays; consultants working without work orders; limited transparency of project information, and poor oversight.
For whom the lanes toll: As metro Atlanta’s northside commuters prepare for the Northwest Corridor reversible toll lanes to open, state transportation officials told Cobb County commissioners that construction on the I-285 Top End Express Lanes is scheduled for 2023-2026. The project involves two elevated, barrier-separated express lanes in each direction on I-285, alongside the existing general-purpose lanes as part of the Georgia Express Lanes system. As early as 2005, the Foundation proposed this approach; don’t miss Bob Poole at the September 21 Policy Briefing Luncheon!
No degree needed: The job-search site Glassdoor compiled a list of 15 major companies that no longer require college degrees for certain jobs. According to a National Review article, the list includes entry- and mid-level jobs ranging from barista to “Apple Genius” to “senior manager of finance” at such corporate giants as Apple, Google, Bank of America, Penguin Random House, Home Depot, Costco, Whole Foods and Starbucks. Glassdoor lauded these firms for recognizing “that book smarts don’t necessarily equal strong work ethic, grit and talent.” We concur, which is why the education session at the 2018 Georgia Legislative Policy Forum includes a look beyond college degrees in Georgia.
Transparency: Eighty-nine percent of patients want to know their medical costs before they receive any care, but just 26 percent of American adults said they had contacted different doctors or medical facilities about prices. Source: Becker’s Hospital Review
Medicaid money woes: Amid a $300 million shortfall, Kentucky is considering eliminating its Medicaid expansion or shrinking benefits, The San Francisco Chronicle reports. Since Medicaid was expanded in 2014 the program has added about 500,000 people; a federal judge blocked the state’s plan to implement work requirements for able-bodied adults on Medicaid. The 2018 Georgia Legislative Policy Forum will cover alternatives to Medicaid expansion in a discussion featuring past HHS Secretary Tom Price and Grady Health Systems CEO John Haupert.
This month in the archives: In August five years ago, the Foundation published, “Transportation Needs Innovation, Especially in Funding.” It noted, “Think outside the Beltway: Eliminate the federal government to the greatest extent possible so that local governments can focus on local needs instead of Washington’s wants.”
Have a great Labor Day weekend!
Kyle Wingfield and Benita Dodd
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I wanted to publicly say how much I appreciate Georgia Public Policy Foundation. For those of you that will be entering the Legislature or are relatively new you may not quite yet appreciate how much we rely on Georgia Public Policy Foundation’s research and work. As you know we’re a citizen’s legislature. We have very little staff. They have been an invaluable, invaluable resource to us. To put this [Forum] on and the regular programs that they do throughout the year make us better at what we do. (At the 2012 Georgia Legislative Policy Forum.)