Friday Facts: January 31, 2020

It’s Friday!

Freedom Award 2019
Above: Sunny Park (left) was presented with the Georgia Public Policy Foundation’s Freedom Award by Foundation President Kyle Wingfield. The award honors a notable Georgian who exemplifies the principles of private enterprise and personal integrity. (Photo credit: Bill Adler)

About 300 friends and supporters joined us Tuesday night at the Fabulous Fox in Atlanta for the Foundation’s 29th Anniversary Celebration and Freedom Award Dinner.

The keynote speaker was John A. Allison, board member and former CEO of the Cato Institute and the retired chairman and CEO of BB&T Corp. (recently renamed Truist).

Through the years, the Foundation has presented the prestigious Freedom Award to a notable Georgian who has exemplified the principles of private enterprise and personal integrity. The 2019 recipient, honored at the event, is Sunny K. Park, “CEJ” (Chief Executive Janitor) of General Building Maintenance, a former member of the Foundation’s Board of Trustees, philanthropist, motivational speaker and community leader. View the Freedom Award video tribute on the Foundation’s YouTube channel.

Quotes of Note

“One frequent claim is that our nation is a democracy. If we’ve become a democracy, it would represent a deep betrayal of our founders, who saw democracy as another form of tyranny. In fact, the word democracy appears nowhere in our nation’s two most fundamental documents, the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.” – Walter Williams

“Wealthy and progressive cities have so much potential for truly tackling the immoral and unacceptable problem of racial and economic gaps in educational outcomes. To get there we first need communities and their political leaders to acknowledge that they have a problem, and from there we need the political class of all these cities to commit themselves to a meaningful plan that is co-created with the communities they serve and monitored year over year for progress toward the goal of closing gaps.” – Chris Stewart, CEO, Brightbeam

“Britain’s voters in 2016, and again in 2019, chose peaceful and prosperous coexistence with their neighbors rather than mindless but relentless integration. It’s the most consequential choice any European electorate has made in at least a generation, and friends of Europe in America should wish them every success.” – Wall Street Journal editorial on “Brexit,” Britain’s official exit from the European Union tonight

Opportunity

Record activity: In a record-setting calendar year, the Port of Savannah moved 4.6 million twenty-foot equivalent container units (TEUs) in 2019, an increase of nearly 250,000 TEUs (5.6%) compared to 2018, the Georgia Ports Authority reported this week. Both Savannah and Brunswick are outperforming the market, with Garden City container trade growing at a rate three times faster than the U.S. total.

Virus vs. trade: China’s coronavirus outbreak has created more doubt about that country’s ability to buy $36.5 billion of U.S. agricultural goods in 2020. It is not known if the virus will disrupt Beijing’s recent trade deal, specifically, China’s January 15 pledge to dramatically increase purchases of American farm goods, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said this week. Source: Reuters

Education

Teamwork done wrong: In a case highlighting an inherent risk in online testing, 33 new Georgia state troopers are without jobs after accusations they cheated on an online speed detection test. Thirty-two were fired, one resigned. According to news reports, the trainee trooper class banded together to help each other pass the test after two classmates failed in May. Several circulated test questions in their dorm rooms at the training facility in Forsyth, Ga., searched the answers on Google and communicated with each other via online messaging apps. A girlfriend of one trooper revealed the scheme.

Passing of a giant: Harvard Professor Clayton Christensen, 67, author of “Disrupting Class,” died on January 23. Memorializing him, his colleague and friend Michael Horn noted of the book, “thousands were inspired by its messages to transform, not reform, education; to mount a movement to create a student-centered education system by leveraging technology to personalize learning given that all students have different learning needs at different times; and to help all students fulfill their human potential.”

Georgia Legislature

Keep track: Follow the Georgia 2020 legislative session online at legis.ga.gov/.

Battle of the budget: The House of Representatives is considering Governor Brian Kemp’s proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins on July 1, 2020. The Constitution requires that the General Assembly pass a balanced budget.

Show me the money: To fulfill his pledge of a $5,000 pay raise for teachers, Gov. Kemp’s budget includes a $2,000 teacher pay raise, following on last year’s $3,000. But Rep. Terry England, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, warned this week, “The unvarnished truth is we haven’t raised the $550 million in fresh revenue to cover the teachers’ first raise.” England added, “At this point in the process, all I can say is everything is on the table. Can we afford a second teacher pay raise? Can we afford a second income tax rate cut the Legislature has hoped to implement during this session? I simply don’t know.”

Accountability courts: The governor’s proposed budget cuts for accountability courts could be “devastating,” according to the head of the courts’ council. Hall County Superior Court Judge Kathlene Gosselin said the governor’s proposed 8% cut for the accountability court system would eliminate key statewide positions and probably prevent 11 new courts from coming on line this July. Source: Atlanta Journal Constitution 

Right to shop: Legislation filed in the Senate would give Georgia patients the chance to shop around for non-emergency services via insurer-provided websites housing data on costs of a procedure. The Georgia Right to Shop Act is aimed at promoting transparency in healthcare billing.

Taxes and spending

Shocking: U.S. Senate Republicans are asking the IRS for more information on how it enforces the electric vehicle tax credit after the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration found misuse of the program. An audit found nearly $82 million in questionable tax credits for electric vehicles and that the IRS “does not have effective processes to identify and prevent [these] erroneous claims.”

Death, the leveler? Americans are projected to inherit $764 billion this year and will pay an average tax of just 2.1% on that income, according to a paper published by the Brookings Institution. It estimates the tax on work and savings is 15.8%. The author proposes an inheritance tax that could raise as much as $1.4 trillion over the next decade and “take a large step toward leveling the playing field between income from inherited wealth and income from work.” We have a better idea: Instead of taxing parents’ legacy, level the playing field by reducing workers’ payroll taxes.

Transportation

Express lanes: The Georgia Department of Transportation released its “visualization” of the top-end Express Lanes for I-285 in metro Atlanta. View it on YouTube here: https://youtu.be/WyHoyGsn9FQ. Construction begins in 2023.

Trafficking: Georgia First Lady Marty Kemp was in Washington this week as the U.S. Department of Transportation and leaders from Congress, state government and the transportation sector held a summit on new initiatives to combat human trafficking on the nation’s transportation system.

Opportunity

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/.

Friday Flashback

This month in the archives: In January 10 years ago, the Foundation published, “Relax (Regulation) and Map a Road to Economic Recovery.” It noted, “It’s not rocket science. While the nation struggles to recover from the recession, Georgia has an opportunity to simply relax regulation to expand economically. Or, to borrow a ‘smart’ phrase, ‘There’s an app for that.’” 

Visit www.georgiapolicy.org to read the Foundation’s latest commentary, “Georgia’s Distance is No Protection from Coronavirus Fallout,” by Benita M. Dodd.

Have a great weekend!

Kyle Wingfield and Benita Dodd

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