Quotes of note
“The dignity and stability of government in all its branches, the morals of the people, and every blessing of society depend so much upon an upright and skillful administration of justice, that the judicial power ought to be distinct from both the legislative and executive, and independent upon both, that so it may be a check upon both, and both should be checks upon that.” – John Adams
“Ultimately, faculty members have to remember that while our own research, service, and activism are important to us, our institutions exist to educate students and to help them to achieve their ambitions, not our own.” – Joseph Watson
Register: Georgians who plan to vote in the November 6 general election must be registered to vote by Tuesday, October 9. Check your status online at www.mvp.sos.ga.gov/MVP/mvp.do.
Bus stops: Transit ridership dropped by 2.9 percent in 2017 despite a 0.7 percent increase in transit service (as measured in vehicle revenue miles), according to the 2017 National Transit Database released this week. “Of the top 50 urban areas (including San Juan), ridership fell in all but four: Phoenix, Seattle, Kansas City and New Orleans,” notes Randal O’Toole in his blog, The Antiplanner. Source: TI.org
Needs improvement: Georgia earns a grade of “C” on fiscal health from Truth in Accounting’s annual report released in September. “Of the $45 billion in retirement benefits promised, the state has not funded $7.4 billion in pension and $7.6 billion in retiree health care benefits,” according the report, which bases its data on Georgia’s 2017 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report and retirement plans’ actuarial reports.
It’s more than pay: “Mere across-the-board raises, like the ones that followed the teacher strikes in Arizona and other states, fail to address the systemic problems with how teachers are compensated and how these systems are rigged against new and mobile teachers,” writes Martin F. Lueken of EdChoice in “How Teacher Pensions Are Cutting into Teacher Salaries.” He adds, “There are numerous reasons for enacting pension reform. … Improving teacher compensation should be another compelling reason for any lawmaker to seek reform.” Source: EducationNext
Energy and environment
Nuclear meltdown: There’s a tough regulatory road ahead for the nation’s nuclear power, Erin Mundahl writes in InsideSources.com. In 1973, the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission predicted 1,000 reactors by the start of the 21st century, but “new plant construction stalled because of environmental concerns and fears about public safety.” Mundahl points out: “As time passes, regulatory uncertainty is becoming an increasing concern for America’s remaining 99 operating reactors. Unless state and federal rulemakers come to a consensus relatively quickly, America’s nuclear industry may find itself on an almost inescapable downward spiral.”
Taxes and spending
Strings attached: A new book by the Badger Institute of Wisconsin, “Federal GrantStanding,” finds that grants-in-aid, which go directly from the federal government to state and local governments to fund specific projects and programs, soared from $7 billion in 1960 to about $728 billion by 2018. The money comes from federal income tax revenue and does not does not have to be repaid but must be spent according to the federal government’s guidelines.
Wrong direction: The Tax Foundation ranks Georgia No. 8 in the nation on the corporate tax component of its 2019 State Business Tax Climate Index. That’s down one position from 2018 and lagging neighbors Florida (No. 6) and North Carolina (No. 3). No. 1 is South Dakota; No. 50 is Delaware.
Piece of the action: “Nexus Monday” – the date on which the economic nexus laws of 10 states came into effect – was October 1. But just in case some businesses didn’t get the message, a number of states alerted online retailers to remind them of the date they expected companies to start collecting sales tax. It’s complicated: The Colorado Department of Revenue will require a sales tax license for out-of-state retailers who do business in Colorado. Source: Accounting Today
’Tis the season: Most Americans will spend more on holiday shopping in 2018 than they did last year, according to a new survey of consumers by Accenture. Overall, Americans will spend an average of $658, a roughly 4 percent increase compared to the average $632 spent in 2017.
Up, up and away: U.S median household income is at a record-high, inflation-adjusted $61,372. When you factor in that today’s households contain fewer people, the news is even better, notes economist Mark J. Perry of the American Enterprise Institute. Source: Reason.com
Jobs everywhere! At 3 percent of those seeking work unable to find jobs, the unemployment rate is lowest in Gainesville, according to a metropolitan area jobs report released this week by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Georgia’s highest unemployment rate was in Albany (4.7 percent) then Columbus (4.6 percent), while metro Atlanta’s unemployment rate is 3.6 percent.
Still climbing: Annual premiums for employer-sponsored family health coverage reached $19,616 this year, up 5 percent from last year, with workers on average paying $5,547 toward the cost of their coverage. The average deductible among covered workers in a plan with a general annual deductible is $1,573 for single coverage. Source: Kaiser Family Foundation
Plans for Georgia: Gubernatorial candidates Stacey Abrams and Brian Kemp say they have plans for health care in Georgia. Republican Kemp promises a “patient-centered health system” that does not expand Medicaid while Democrat Stacey Abrams “doubled down on her commitment to expand Medicaid to protect rural hospitals.” See the Foundation’s discussion on health care options for uninsured Georgians at the 2018 Georgia Legislative Policy Forum.
YouTube: The 2018 Georgia Legislative Policy Forum sessions are now available for viewing on the Foundation’s YouTube channel. View the Foundation’s September 21 Policy Briefing Luncheon with Bob Poole: “Rethinking America’s Highways.”
This month in the archives: In October 20 years ago, the Foundation published, “What Indianapolis Can Teach Georgia.” It noted, “What can Georgia learn from Indianapolis’s success? Competition works. Georgia should apply the same ‘Yellow Pages Test’ at every level of government, soliciting bids for those services where private sector competition is strong. Let private and public sector firms compete against one another to provide needed services at the least cost and best quality.” We’re getting there, but at snail’s pace.
Have a great weekend!
Kyle Wingfield and Benita Dodd
FRIDAY FACTS is made possible by the generosity of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation’s donors. If you enjoy the FRIDAY FACTS, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to help advance our important mission by clicking here. Visit our Web site at www.georgiapolicy.org. Join The Forum at http://forum.georgiapolicy.org/.
When I served four terms in the state Senate, one of the few places where you could go to always and get concrete information about real solutions was the Georgia Public Policy Foundation. That hasn’t changed. [The Foundation] is really right up there at the top of the state think tanks, so you should be very proud of the work that they are doing!