For the third consecutive year, the Georgia Public Policy Foundation has been named one of the world’s “Best Independent Think Tanks!” In a survey released last week, the Foundation and the Texas Public Policy Foundation – a sister think tank in the State Policy Network – were the only U.S. state-based free-market think tanks ranked as “Best Independent Think Tanks” in the 2019 Global Go-To Think Tank Index Report by the University of Pennsylvania’s Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program. Read the news release here.
Were you at our 29th Anniversary Celebration and Freedom Award Dinner? Visit our Facebook page to view photographs of the January 28 event at the Fabulous Fox. Tag yourself and friends while you’re there!
Quotes of Note
“Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom.” – George Washington Carver
“A primary object should be the education of our youth in the science of government. In a republic, what species of knowledge can be equally important? And what duty more pressing than communicating it to those who are to be the future guardians of the liberties of the country?” – George Washington
“Too bad that all the people who know how to run the country are busy driving taxicabs and cutting hair.” – George Burns
Price vs. spending: Much has been made of the increase in prescription drug spending, but few critics differentiate between prices and spending. Chris Pope of the Manhattan Institute explains: “From 2014 to 2018, price changes accounted for $22 billion in extra drug spending, which was more than offset by a $51 billion reduction in spending resulting from the loss of exclusivity that allowed generic drugs to enter the market. Spending increased slightly overall but not because of price increases. Increased usage of existing drugs led to $35 billion of additional spending while the introduction of new drugs accounted for another $75 billion.”
Housing: High housing prices are not due to demand, Randal O’Toole points out in a study published by NewGeography.com. “Housing remains affordable … in some of the fastest-growing states in the nation, including Georgia, North Carolina and Texas. Prices remain affordable in these areas because a lack of government restrictions allow developers to meet just about any demand for new housing.” O’Toole adds, “There is a growing consensus that government land-use regulation is the cause of housing affordability problems.” Unfortunately, some local governments are eroding Georgia’s affordability advantage. Read the Foundation’s commentary on architectural ordinances.
Ganging up on gangs: Gov. Brian Kemp announced that the Georgia Criminal Street Gang Database is now operational. The database, a collaboration of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Department of Community Supervision and Department of Corrections, is an information bank on criminal street gangs, members, associates and activities. Source: Clayton News-Daily
Private property rights: Legislation in the House would prohibit local governments from regulating short-term rental properties. “To put onerous regulations on [short-term rentals], to me, just doesn’t make sense,” said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Kasey Carpenter of Dalton. “There have been some problem areas. But to mandate that on all properties, you’re allowing the bad apples to mess up the whole bunch of them.” Source: WABE.org
Past-due transparency: Legislation in the House would require tax commissioners and collectors to report in a property tax bill the amount of property taxes paid or credits received for the three previous years.
Testing, testing: Gov. Brian Kemp announced his support of legislation that would eliminate five of the seven K-12 assessments that are currently above federal requirements, “give school districts flexibility on the timing of the high school writing assessment” and shorten the length of the Georgia Milestones. The legislation will help reduce local assessments and maximize instruction time by creating a testing window within the last 25 school days or last five weeks of the school year, according to a news release.
Taking a break: The Georgia General Assembly recessed Thursday and will return February 18. Lawmakers originally had set the calendar through Monday, which would have been the 14th day of the 40-day session. Instead of floor sessions, they will work on Gov. Brian Kemp’s request to trim some agencies’ budgets. The updated calendar:
Feb. 18-21: legislative days 13-16
Feb. 24-28: legislative days 17-21
March 2-5: legislative days 22-25
March 9-10: legislative days 26-27
March 11: committee work day
March 12: legislative day 28.
Follow the Georgia 2020 legislative session online at legis.ga.gov/.
Taxes and spending
On the hook: In addition to public pension plans, state governments offer retired public employees Other Post-Employment Benefits (OPEB), including health insurance, life insurance, Medicare Supplemental Insurance and more. While not as widely discussed as public pension liabilities, unfunded OPEB liabilities are significant and growing. A new report issued by the American Legislative Exchange Council ranks Georgia 40th in the nation, with OPEB liabilities of more than $23.1 billion. That represents a liability of $2,217.57 per resident. Tying for best in the nation, with zero unfunded liabilities, are Nebraska and South Dakota; worst is California, with OPEB liabilities of $166.5 billion.
Amtrak, off track: Amtrak’s accounting system is so full of lies that even the pro-passenger train Rail Passengers Association calls it “fatally flawed, misleading and wrong,” Randal O’Toole writes in the Washington Examiner. He cites how Amtrak counts $234 million in 2019 taxpayer subsidies from 17 states as “passenger revenues,” and notes, “Deducting these subsidies from revenues immediately increases Amtrak’s 2019 losses to $264 million.” Amtrak also failed to report depreciation in its operating costs.
High-polluting? Plug-in hybrid cars emit up to three times more greenhouse gases in “real world” driving than official figures suggest, according to an audit by a British fuel management company. It found the vehicles’ fuel consumption was far greater than claimed and vehicles, which have a battery-powered electric motor, were heavier than regular gas-powered vehicles. This week, the British government moved up the date it will ban sales of all internal-combustion engine vehicles (gasoline, diesel and hybrid). Instead of in 2040, the ban will begin in 2035. Source: News reports
This month in the archives: In February 25 years ago, the Foundation published, “Telecommunications and Georgia’s Competitive Advantage.” It noted, “Georgia cannot fall behind in its telecommunications infrastructure development, for to do so would concede a competitive advantage to other states that are targeting information-intensive industries for economic development.” Infrastructure innovation and investment have helped Atlanta become the global capital of the financial technology sector.
Have a great weekend!
Kyle Wingfield and Benita Dodd
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