Friday Facts: March 19, 2021

It’s Friday! 

Memory Lane: The Georgia Public Policy Foundation, which celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2021, has gauged the pulse of Georgia for reform since its early days, as this poll from 1996 demonstrates. Even then, Georgia voters supported education choice, limited spending and education options, among other reforms. (Keara has article)

Quotes of note

“The last 30 years of climate policy have delivered high costs and rising emissions. The only reliable ways to cut emissions have been recessions and the COVID-19 lockdowns, both of which are unpalatable. Expecting nations to stop using cheap energy won’t succeed. We need innovation.” – Bjorn Lomberg

Welfare dependency in America has a new face. These programs are no longer just for vulnerable women and children. Grown men in the prime of life, traditionally society’s providers, are now a major constituency for public aid. In 2017, over one in four prime-age American men took poverty-conditioned benefits – triple the share in 1985. If we add in payments from our highly problematic disability programs, even more were on some form of government dole. Yet, in the commentary on the ‘endangered American middle class,’ rising welfare dependence is hardly ever mentioned. What a curious oversight.” – Nicholas Eberstadt

“The Sunshine State appears to have weathered the pandemic better than others like New York and California, which stayed locked down harder and longer. Mortality data bear out this conclusion. … Based on demographics, Florida’s per-capita Covid death rate would be expected to be one of the highest in the nation. Nope. Florida’s death rate is in the middle of the pack and only slightly higher than in California, which has a much younger population.” – Allysia Finley

Education

Hope for students: West Virginia’s Senate this week voted to approve the creation of one of the most expansive education savings account (ESA) programs in the nation. The Hope Scholarship program would give parents of any full-time public-school student the option to use a portion of their child’s state per-pupil expenditure for educational expenses. It opens the program to eligible public, private and homeschool students by 2026. The legislation heads back to the House of Delegates to approve the Senate’s changes. Legislation that would allow ESAs in Georgia did not receive House approval before Crossover Day. Source: The Inter-Mountain

Taxes and spending

Postponed: The IRS delay of the April 15 tax-filing deadline to May 17 gives taxpayers an additional month to file returns and pay any outstanding levies. The postponement applies to individual taxpayers, including people who pay self-employment tax, but not to the first-quarter 2021 estimated tax payments that many small business owners owe. Source: Accounting Today

Tax and Spend Tuesday: The Foundation’s roundup of tax and spending news shares the Biden Administration’s plan to raise taxes, to prevent states from cutting taxes, and more. 

Regulation

Federalism: Click here to read Kyle Wingfield’s column on how the federal government is turning the screws on state government independence.

Energy and environment

Energy insecurity: The U.S. electricity grid’s distribution systems are becoming more vulnerable to cyberattacks, according to a new Government Accountability Office report, “in part because their industrial control systems increasingly allow remote access and connect to business networks.” While the Department of Energy has developed plans to implement the national cybersecurity strategy for the grid, “these plans do not fully address risks to the grid’s distribution systems,” the GAO reports.

Save land, get time? Grand juries in Atlanta, St. Louis and Charlotte are weighing charges against organizers of syndicated conservation easements, according to Accounting Today. “The IRS says these land deals tied to inflated deductions are illegal because they serve no purpose other than tax avoidance. A Senate committee estimates they cost the government $10.6 billion in unpaid taxes.”

Economy

Rising tide: Worker filings for unemployment benefits are near the pandemic’s lowest levels, adding to evidence of recent economic improvement, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday. Jobless claims rose last week to 770,000, still elevated above the pre-pandemic peak of 695,000, but have declined since January.

Legislature

Citizen’s arrest: Georgia could become the first state in the country to repeal its citizen’s arrest law after the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced the bill out of committee Thursday. The House passed the legislation unanimously after the issue gained attention in the wake of the 2020 shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick. 

Make it permanent: The House Banking Committee advanced legislation that would allow corporations to hold shareholder meetings remotely. Gov. Brian Kemp’s executive order waived the in-person requirement during the public health state of emergency.

Pandemic protection: The Senate approved House legislation that would extend COVID-19 liability protections for one more year; it heads to the Governor’s desk.

Tax cut: The Senate approved House legislation that would provide a state income tax cut for Georgians using the standard deduction; it heads to the Governor’s desk. The legislation increases the standard deduction for taxpayers who are single and heads of household to $5,400 from $4,600; for a married couple filing jointly to $7,100 from $6,000; and for married couples filing individually to $3,550 from $3,000.

Healthcare

Georgia COVID-19 update: The Georgia Department of Public Health reported the number of cases since the pandemic began totaled 839,823 as of Thursday afternoon, up from 832,480 last week. Deaths were at 16,053; last week the death toll was 15,784. The department updates the information daily at 3 p.m. Visit the website here. Find out who is eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine in Georgia here.

Medical Mondays: In this week’s Checking Up On Health, read about neglected vaccine regimens for children, the declining fertility rate, expanded vaccine opportunities, and more.

Friday Flashback

This month in the archives: In March five years ago, the Foundation published, “Tax Reform a Needed Boost for Georgia’s Economy.” It noted, “In reality, the income tax is not a tax on the wealthy; it’s a tax on becoming wealthy. The wealthy can hire professional advisors to help them find loopholes and tax shelters. They can purchase non-taxable investments, time their income streams or just spend six months of the year in Florida. It’s the working class that gets stuck paying the bulk of income taxes, which limits their ability to accumulate wealth.”

Visit georgiapolicy.org to read the Foundation’s latest commentary, “Sunshine Week, a Vital Disinfectant in Pandemic and Always,” by Benita M. Dodd.

Have a great weekend!

Kyle Wingfield and Benita Dodd

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