November 15: It’s just one week away! The 2019 Georgia Legislative Policy Forum comes to the Renaissance Atlanta Waverly on Friday, November 15. Five issues. Five think tanks. One day! Learn about education, healthcare, opportunity, regulation and transportation for Georgia. Registration is $100 for the daylong event. The theme: “Wisdom, Justice, Mobility.” Read about it here; register here.
January 28, 2020: Mark your calendar for the Georgia Public Policy Foundation’s Anniversary Celebration and Freedom Award Dinner at the Fox Theatre on Tuesday, January 28!
Quotes of note
“America has many glories. The last one that she would wish to surrender is the glory of the men who have served her in war. While such devotion lives, the nation is secure. Whatever dangers may threaten from within or without, she can view them calmly. Turning to her veterans, she can say: ‘These are our defenders. They are invincible. In them is our safety.’” – Calvin Coolidge (1920)
“The bottom line is that we’ve become a nation of thieves, a value rejected by our founders. James Madison, the father of our Constitution, was horrified when Congress appropriated $15,000 to help French refugees. He said, ‘I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.’ Tragically, today’s Americans would run Madison out of town on a rail.” – Walter Williams
“A commuter tie-up consists of you – and people who for some reason won’t use public transit.” – Robert Brault
Georgia Pathways: Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp unveiled a plan this week to seek a federal Medicaid demonstration waiver that would offer access to healthcare for a projected 52,500 low-income, able-bodied adults. Georgians earning up to $12,000 annually would be able to sign up for coverage through a program called Georgia Pathways. The program would require participants to work, undergo job training, pursue education opportunities, or volunteer for 80 hours a month, and it would require a “skin-in-the-game” premium.
Unaccountable: Medicaid serves more than 75 million low-income people nationwide, and its size and complexity makes it “vulnerable to improper payments,” according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO). Since 2014, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has not estimated improper payments resulting from erroneous eligibility determinations. In FY 2018, improper payments were estimated at $36 billion, or nearly 10% of federal Medicaid expenditures. The GAO proposes actions including “closing gaps in oversight of eligibility determinations and related expenses, improving data, and furthering federal-state collaboration.”
‘Asking for a friend’: Crowd-diagnosis – using social media to seek out a medical diagnosis, is a growing public phenomenon, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The authors warn many diagnoses are “wildly inaccurate” and conclude health leaders must work to reduce the spread of false information and misdiagnosis. Specifically, the study mentions how social media users believe “Apple cider vinegar cures all.”
Shrinking enrollment: November 1 marked the first day of open enrollment on healthcare.gov, the federal government’s enrollment platform used by 38 states. More than 177,000 people signed up for ObamaCare plans during the first two days of open enrollment, and nearly 49,000 were new customers. In the first week of open enrollment last year, which covered three days instead of this year’s two, 371,676 people signed up. Source: News reports
Top of the heap: Site Selection Magazine has joined Area Development Magazine in naming Georgia the top state for business for 2019 – the seventh and sixth straight year, respectively, that both publications have awarded Georgia the ranking. “We’re opening up a lot of avenues besides metro Atlanta,” said Gov. Brian Kemp. “Of the 332 projects we did worth $7.4 billion of investment, 74% of them were outside of I-285.” He recently formed a Rural Strike Force to target areas outside the metro area.
Taxes and spending
Your vote counts: Special-Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) proposals were on the ballot across the state, with numerous examples of the impact of voter turnout on midterm elections. In Clarke County, where just 12.5% of voters went to the polls (8,974), 78% approved the penny SPLOST. In Hall County, 5% of voters turned out (6,341); 70% of voters supported the SPLOST. In Meriwether County, 17% of the county’s voters went to the polls (2,472) and 75% of the voters supported a transportation SPLOST proposal. In Bibb County, about 10% of eligible voters turned out (7,979), with 75% supporting the county’s education SPLOST. As a Foundation commentary noted, “Too many SPLOST elections are in off-election years.”
TABOR: Colorado’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) was approved by voters in 1992 and aims to limit government growth by capping the amount of revenue it can collect and spend, returning excess tax revenues to taxpayers, and requiring voter approval for all tax increases. Opponents who sought to undo TABOR and allow government to keep excess tax revenues saw their proposition defeated by 10 percentage points this week.
Blame game: Transit ridership is declining around the nation, including in metro Atlanta. Ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft, which are increasingly popular, are wrongly being scapegoated in some cities, according to a new report by Randal O’Toole. He notes Chicago is the latest seeking to tax ride-hailing companies and give some of the money to the Chicago Transit Authority. To justify this, the city unfairly claims the companies are a “significant contributing factor” in increased congestion, air pollution and wear-and-tear on roads. Source: NewGeography.com
Tax incentives: DeKalb County’s economic development authority agreed in 2017 to give developers $4.2 million in property tax breaks if they set aside 10% of units for “affordable housing” in the $77 million Holbrook senior living community. The complex opened this year and is charging $3,200 a month for its least expensive units, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. The agreement did not specify what the rent would be on the “affordable” units.
Energy and environment
Energy security: OPEC’s share of the oil market is projected to shrink from around 37% presently to 32% in the mid-2020s amid growing U.S. shale production. Shale is expected to hit 17 million barrels per day by 2025, up 40% from current levels. OPEC could further cut supplies as demand for its oil is expected to decline by 7% to an average of 32.7 million barrels per day in 2023, according to Bloomberg.
This month in the archives: In November 20 years ago, the Foundation published, “Sandy Springs: A Case Study on Centralization of Local Government.” It noted, “Consolidation and centralization lead to uniformity at the most expensive level, thereby negating promises of savings presented in justification of consolidation.” Sandy Springs incorporated as a city in 2005.
Visit www.georgiapolicy.org to read the Foundation’s latest commentary, “Good News on Georgia Economic Freedom and Opportunity,” by Benita M. Dodd.
Have a great weekend. On November 11, pause a moment to thank our veterans!
Kyle Wingfield and Benita Dodd
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