Friday Facts: March 18th, 2011

It’s Friday!

– “The best thing we can do for democracy in the world, in my view now, is get our own fiscal house in order. If we don’t do that, America’s leadership in the world, even with successful interventions, is going to be in greater and greater doubt.” –  Sam Nunn, former U.S. senator from Georgia

Taxes and spending
– No tax on the Tagalongs: 
The state would see a surplus of nearly $1 billion if the tax reform plan is implemented and income tax rates are reduced to 4 percent, according to the latest estimate from Georgia State University. This means some of the more politically unpopular proposals could be dropped or income tax rates could be cut nearly in half to 3.5 percent, from the current 6 percent. Girl Scouts can relax: The Legislature was required to introduce a bill containing all of the Tax Council’s recommendations, but a substitute bill in the next few days is expected to provide for a big cut in income taxes without a tax on cookies and other controversial items.
– Less is more: Georgia spent $3.89 on legislative staffing for every person in the state, the lowest in the nation and about one-third of the national average of $9.41, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Unlike the large staffs in Washington, D.C., “Each [Georgia state] senator shares a full-time secretary with one other colleague while members of the House share a secretary with as many as three colleagues,” Walter Jones writes in the Florida Times-Union.
 Destruction is not production. It never is, and society isn’t better off because of it,” Art Carden points out in his blog that focuses on the tragedy in Japan as the latest evidence of how economic ignorance is influencing public discussion and policy. In “Nobody talks about the jobs killed by the stimulus,” Ike Brannon, director of economic policy at the American Action Forum, adds to Carden’s point in a Weekly Standard column. He describes how the federal government evicted the legendary Loeb’s NY Deli in Washington, D.C., in order to renovate the building with stimulus funds. “Over two years after the legislation passed, the government finally got around to this project, which cost the 50 or so employees at Loeb’s and the other ground-floor businesses in the building their jobs.”
– Where are those fees going? Of each dollar from the federal Universal Service Fund distributed, about 59 cents goes to “general and administrative expenses” – overhead such as planning, government relations and personnel – rather than to making telephone service more affordable. The Technology Policy Institute says those subsidies should be radically overhauledSource: Heartland Institute

Health care
– Defenders of the new federal health law have chattered endlessly about people who are uninsured because of pre-existing conditions, even though there are only 12,500 of them. “But almost no one seems to have noticed that 16 million people are not only going to be forced into Medicaid, they are effectively going to be denied the right to buy any private insurance, whether or not they have a pre-existing condition,” according to John Goodman of the National Center for Policy Analysis.

What’s happening at the Foundation
– April 19
: Mark your calendar for a noon Policy Briefing Luncheon at the Georgian Club with Samuel Staley, Ph.D., director of urban growth and land use policy at Reason Foundation, on “Getting the Funding You Want for the Transportation You Need.” The cost to attend this event is $35. Register at
Missed an event? Policy Briefing Luncheons and Leadership Breakfasts are videotaped and available for online streaming at FoundationTV on the Foundation’s Web site at
Join our Forum: If you like the Friday Facts, you’ll love the Foundation’s interactive online community, The Forum. Mike Klein reported this week on what a new law will cost studentsas Georgia works to save the celebrated HOPE scholarship. Read more here: and join the discussion today at!



– The Georgia Charter Schools Commission knew it had a problem last year when two companies that operate online learning schools withdrew from the state because of inadequate per pupil funding. In December, the commission changed funding levels for next year’s students. But that work may have been torpedoed by the House spending bill passed last week. Mike Klein’s Forum article reports on the unexpected funding cutback and what might happen next..

– Georgia has a great opportunity to leverage the work of great teachers using technology. Here are two examples of the possibilities:

In a fascinating speech, Salman Khan talks about Khan Academy and how this technology has allowed some teachers to flip the traditional classroom script. They give students video lectures to watch at home, and do “homework” in the classroom with the teacher available to help. Find out more at

Rocketship Mateo Sheedy Elementary School shows how technology “may integrate with, and alter, classroom practice. Rocketship is building a model in which kids learn much of their basic skills via adaptive technology … leaving classroom teachers free to focus on critical-thinking instruction and extra help where kids are struggling. Likewise, teachers will be able to ‘prescribe’ online attention to specific skills. Part of the model involves providing teachers with a steady stream of data that will help them adjust instruction to kids’ specific needs, and to guide afterschool tutors.” These “hybrid” schools combine “face-to-face” education in a specific place with online instruction. Find out more at

– It’s all relative: Californians Advocating Responsible Rail Design recently issued a cost estimate of $65.4 billion for the California High Speed Rail project. By comparison, on CNBC’s Squawk Box program on March 2, Warren Buffett mentioned buying the entire BNSF railroad (one of the largest railroad networks in North America that covers the western two-thirds of the United States) for $34 billion.
– Up and away: The 23-mile Dulles Rail project was projected to be carrying passengers from Falls Church, Va., to Dulles Airport by 2016. Now it’s estimated thatconstruction won’t be complete until as late as the summer of 2017. Meanwhile, cost estimates are now roughly $6.5 billion, about $1 billion higher than original estimates.Source: Washington Examiner

– Go to or visit to read the Foundation’s latest commentary, “High-Speed Rail and Livability: Pie-in-the-Sky Transportation Policy,” by Ronald Utt.

Have a great weekend.

Kelly McCutchen

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