Quotes of note
“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” – Mark Twain
“Our goal is not simply to send children to school. Our goal is to educate children.” – Greg Dolezal, Georgia state senator
“When you can do the common things of life in an uncommon way, you will command the attention of the world.” – George Washington Carver
We’re hiring! The Georgia Public Policy Foundation is on the lookout for an entry-level development associate. Find out more at https://talentmarket.org/devo-assoc-gppf/.
March 21: “Shining a Light on Government,” an 8 a.m. Leadership Breakfast with veteran investigative reporter Richard Belcher of WSB-TV in celebration of Sunshine Week on Thursday, March 21, at the Georgian Club in Cobb County. $30. Information and registration here.
March 21-23: Academic Freedom and Free Speech Conference at Emory University, bringing together academics and student-affairs professionals. Information here.
April 17: “Second Chances 2019,” an 8 a.m. Leadership Breakfast with Georgia Congressman Doug Collins, sponsor of the FIRST STEP Act, to celebrate Second Chance Month, on Wednesday, April 17, at the Georgian Club. $30. Information and registration here.
May 23: “You Can Say That: How Courage Can Defeat Political Correctness,” a noon Policy Briefing Luncheon with David French of the National Review Institute, on Thursday, May 23, at the Georgian Club. $35. Information and registration here.
No choice: The Senate voted against a bill that would authorize Educational Scholarship Accounts for up to 0.5 percent of Georgia’s 1.7 million public school students. Families would have the option to use the state portion of their child’s public education tax dollars to purchase authorized education services, including private school tuition, online education, therapy, textbooks or tutoring. In the House, a fiscal note put the cost of such a program at $48 million for the first year. (State appropriations alone for Georgia’s FY 2019 education budget totaled about $9.9 billion.)
Choice: Georgia State Sen. Greg Dolezal (R-Forsyth), in explaining his Senate bill to authorize educational scholarship accounts, cited a new study by Foundation Senior Fellow Jeffrey Dorfman, which found that, “in all except the smallest districts,” either a voucher or an ESA could be funded up to the level of average variable cost and leave more than enough money to educate the remaining students at the same expenditure level as before. Click here to read Dorfman’s Issue Analysis.
Generous Georgia: When it comes to charitable giving, Georgians are among the top givers in North America. Among the percentage of tax filers donating to charity, Georgia is No. 12 of the 64 U.S. states and Canadian provinces and territories ranked in the Fraser Institute’s 2018 Generosity Index. The Peach State is No. 2 in the percentage of aggregate income donated and No. 7 for the average annual income donated!
Millennials: Amid the ongoing discussion about what Millennials want, Federal Reserve economists have published a study, “Are Millennials Different?” Short answer: No. “[W]e find little evidence that millennial households have tastes and preference for consumption that are lower than those of earlier generations, once the effects of age, income, and a wide range of demographic characteristics are taken into account.” Source: NewGeography.com
Small businesses win big: The National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) reports small-business job creation broke a 45-year record in February, with a net addition of 0.52 workers per firm (including those making no change in employment), up from 0.25 in December and 0.33 in January. The previous record was 0.51 reached in May 1998. NFIB also found a historic low level of business owners cutting jobs – 3 percent of survey respondents. “Owners are trying to hold on to the employees they have,” an NFIB spokesman said. Source: Wall Street Journal
Growing freight: At 1,200 acres, the Port of Savannah’s Garden City Terminal is North America’s largest single container terminal. Over the next decade, the Georgia Ports Authority plans to expand the port’s annual capacity by 45 percent, adding the Mason Mega Rail facility, eight ship-to-shore cranes, 64 rubber-tired gantry cranes, gate and container storage expansions, and berth improvements. This means more road and rail freight traveling through Georgia, too.
Growing transit: Early voting is under way for the March 19 Gwinnett County voter referendum on whether MARTA should take over transit services. A yes vote would enable a nearly 17 percent increase in the sales tax rate in the county to fund transit. The one-percent sales tax and MARTA contract would be in place until 2057. The county plan proposes a 125 percent increase in bus service, Bus Rapid Transit service on dedicated lanes, subsidized ride-share services and a four-mile heavy rail expansion into the county. Gwinnett would also pay an “equitable share” toward the overall MARTA system’s upkeep, “including maintenance of a state of good repair.”
One way or another: New legislation in the House would require taxis and ride-share services to charge customers a flat fee, replacing the state sales tax that Uber is disputing, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. Taxi, limo and ride-hailing rides would include a 50-cent flat fee, and shared rides, like UberPool, would charge riders 25 cents. The fee would fund public transportation.
At risk: The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC), which insures the defined benefit pension plans for nearly 37 million American workers and retirees in about 24,800 private sector plans, faces an “uncertain financial future,” according to the Government Accountability Office. It blames a decline in the number of plans “and the collective financial risk of the many underfunded pension plans that PBGC insures.”
Misspent: Federal entities reported about $151 billion in improper payments in Fiscal Year 2018, according to the Government Accountability Office. Improper payments by Medicare ($48.5 billion) and Medicaid ($36.2 billion) accounted for about 56 percent of this total. “Federal spending for Medicare programs and Medicaid is expected to significantly increase in the coming years, so it is especially critical to take appropriate measures to reduce improper payments in these programs,” the GAO pointed out.
Health Savings Accounts: A survey of patients with Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) found the most common reported use (40 percent) is to save for future health events. Far fewer patients are shopping around for their care, with only 14 percent of patients saying they have done so in the past 12 months. “Patients with high financial literacy were more likely to engage in price shopping than those with lower literacy,” according to the survey, published in the journal Health Affairs. Source: Patientengagementhit.com
Foundation in the media: Maureen Downey’s “Get Schooled” blog on AJC.com published an op-ed by Kyle-Wingfield about education scholarship accounts. Brian Patton of Real Estate Success interviewed Benita Dodd about local governments’ architectural ordinances.
This month in the archives: In March 20 years ago, the Foundation published, “Georgia’s Criminal Justice System at a Crossroads: Tough Laws, Smart Decisions.” It noted, “Balancing tough laws with smart decisions will ensure that the taxpayer dollar is best spent and that citizens are well-protected.” It was a dozen years later that criminal justice reforms were implemented.
Have a great weekend!
Kyle Wingfield and Benita Dodd
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The best way to make a lasting impact on public policy is to change public opinion. When you change the beliefs of the people; the politicians and political parties change with them.