January 28: We’re just 18 days away from the Georgia Public Policy Foundation’s 29th Anniversary Celebration and Freedom Award Dinner on January 28! Join us in the Egyptian Ballroom at the fabulous Fox Theatre on Tuesday, January 28. The keynote speaker is John A. Allison, retired CEO of BB&T and the Cato Institute. The Foundation’s prestigious Freedom Award will be presented to Sunny K. Park, philanthropist, businessman, motivational speaker and a great Georgian. Find more information here; contact Kennedy@georgiapolicy.org for sponsorship information.
Quotes of Note
“Why did Americans stop trusting their government? There is no single answer, of course. But perhaps part of the reason is that the size and scope of the federal establishment metastasized far beyond the level at which it could maintain a reputation for fairness and reliability. Since the 1960s and 1970s, Washington has insisted on doing more, regulating more, intervening more, spending more, and micromanaging more than ever before. … The bigger government grew and the more it intruded in citizens’ lives, the sourer the taste it left in many mouths.” – Jeff Jacoby
“Collecting more taxes than is absolutely necessary is legalized robbery.” – Calvin Coolidge
“If all citizens simply did their civic duty, we wouldn’t be having this fight over purging thousands of inactive voters. As we have observed before, when it comes to voting, the first responsibility is with each citizen to register and to maintain that registration by voting and by updating that registration when necessary. It’s called personal responsibility.” – Marietta Daily Journal
Energy hogs: Transit is often touted as a way to save energy. But since 2009, transit has used more energy, per passenger mile, than the average car, and since 2016, transit has used more than the average of cars and light trucks together, according to a new report by transportation expert Randal O’Toole. He cites annual reports by the National Transit Database that show “ridership is declining, but transit agencies aren’t proportionately reducing miles of transit service. … While transit agencies may be purchasing more fuel-efficient vehicles, the increase in average efficiencies per vehicle mile can’t make up for the loss in passengers.”
Price hikes: The rates hospitals charge for care have skyrocketed, according to a new study published in the journal Health Affairs that found hospital charges rose from three to five times Medicare payment rates by 2016. Emergency department charges rose to about 555% of Medicare payment rates in 2016, up from about 225% in 1996; inpatient charges were about 175% of the Medicare rates in 1996 but 350% by 2016, and outpatient charges went from about 225% of Medicare rates to nearly 375%. Source: Becker’s Hospital Review
Technology briefs: Doctors from Earth reached out to the International Space Station to treat an astronaut’s blood clot. Smartphone technology is helping users detect possible skin cancer. New artificial intelligence is helping brain surgeons analyze tissue samples in two to three minutes – while the patient is still on the operating table – rather than the half-hour it used to take. Source: news reports
Taxes and spending
Film tax credits: The Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts has published a 75-page audit of film tax credits, Georgia’s largest tax credit program. It found more than $3 billion in credits were generated from 2013-2017, but just 12% of projects were audited by the Department of Revenue in 2016, representing half the credits generated. The report noted that 29 of 31 other states with a film tax credit or rebate require an audit of all projects. It found $4 million in ineligible expenditures that had been allowed in eight DOR-audited projects it examined. “While the state has granted billions in credits, it does not have an adequate system of controls to prevent the improper granting of credits,” the report stated.
Audits decline: The Internal Revenue Service’s personal income tax audits dropped to their lowest level in decades, The Wall Street Journal reports. Just 0.45% of individuals were audited in 2019. According to the report, the decline is driven “by years of cuts in the agency’s budget along with a heavier workload. The result, according to tax experts, is that the Treasury is letting billions of dollars annually go uncollected, even as budget deficits rise.”
Let the games begin: Tax season begins for individual filers on Monday, January 27, when the IRS will begin accepting and processing 2019 returns. The deadline to file 2019 tax returns and pay taxes owed is Wednesday, April 15. More than 150 million individual tax returns for the 2019 are expected to be filed. Source: Accounting Today
Energy and environment
Rate increase: The 1.6 million customers of Atlanta Gas Light will notice an increase in their natural gas bills effective this month after the Georgia Public Service Commission approved a 4% increase to AGL’s base charge. “Base charges represent our cost of delivering gas to your home or business, pipeline maintenance and meter reading. If you change marketers, this charge will remain the same,” according to AGL. The increase, the first since 2010, amounts to $65 million for AGL, which does not sell gas; deregulation of Georgia’s natural gas market went into effect in 1998.
Back in session: The 40-day session of the second half of Georgia’s biennial Legislature begins Monday. Follow the session online at http://www.legis.ga.gov/.
Foster children: According to state records, as of May 2019 Georgia had 13,718 children in foster care. “That is unacceptable to us,” Governor Brian Kemp told Fox 5 Atlanta in a discussion about his 2020 priorities. He said it is time to reexamine foster care, “and see how we can streamline the adoption process for foster kids specifically, but adoption in general and really try to help find these kids loving homes.” The Foundation has promoted improved options for foster children since at least 1996.
Free enterprise: The 2019 Human Freedom Index finds the top 10 in global freedom, in order, were New Zealand, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Canada, Australia, Denmark and Luxembourg (tied in 6th place), Finland and Germany (tied in 8th place), and Ireland. The report finds higher incomes and greater democracy in countries that rank higher on the index, an analysis of 162 countries based on 76 indicators. Selected countries rank as follows: Sweden (11), United Kingdom (14), United States (15), Taiwan (19), Japan (25), South Korea (27), Chile (28), France (33), Mexico (92), India (94), Brazil (109), Russia (114), China (126), Saudi Arabia (149), Iran (154), Egypt (157), Venezuela (161), and Syria (162).
We’re hiring! The Foundation is in search of a Policy and Research Director to work with the President and Vice President to set policy positions and priorities among our issues, which include education, healthcare, transportation, tax and spending, regulation, housing affordability, criminal justice reform, and energy and the environment. Find out more at talentmarket.org/policy-gppf/.
YouTube: The Foundation records all events, which are housed on our YouTube channel. Click here to view all the sessions from the 2019 Georgia Legislative Policy Forum on November 15. Among the topics covered: early childhood development, education, transportation, regulatory reform and healthcare.
This month in the archives: In January 15 years ago, the Foundation published, “Is More Money the Answer to Budget Woes?” It noted, “Throwing money at the problem is not the answer. We must provide incentives so that we spend health care and education dollars as carefully as we spend our own money – demanding both quality and a fair price. This will require innovative solutions, bold leadership and dramatic change, but the alternative is far more difficult.’”
Have a great weekend!
Kyle Wingfield and Benita Dodd
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