Friday Facts: November 11th, 2011

It’s Friday!

- Today is Veterans Day. Remember to thank those who have fought for our freedom:  "The patriot volunteer, fighting for country and his rights, makes the most reliable soldier on earth." – Thomas Jackson 



– Register today: John Charles, president and CEO of the Cascade Policy Institute of Oregon, will keynote “Portland: Model or Maverick?” a Foundation Leadership Breakfast at 8 a.m. on Wednesday, December 14, at the Georgian Club in Cobb County. Registration for this Leadership Breakfast is $25. For details and registration, go to



 “‘Solve’ and ‘problems’ are not in the Constitution.” – Doug Newman

- "I own I am not a friend to a very energetic government. It is always oppressive." – Thomas Jefferson to James Madison

– “In the beginning of a change, the patriot is a scarce man, and brave, and hated and scorned. When his cause succeeds, the timid join him, for then it costs nothing to be a patriot.” – Mark Twain



 California not-so-high-speed rail: California’s high-speed rail project now costs more than twice its last estimate and will be completed 13 years behind schedule. The original cost was estimated in 2008 to be $33 billion and completion scheduled for 2020. It would have taken passengers from San Francisco to Anaheim at up to 250 miles per hour for $55 each way. The new estimate: $98.5 billion. The new completion date: 2033. The new top speed: 220 mph. The new cost: $95 each way. Read more at The Daily

- Wasteful spending: Urging an end to the federal Transportation Enhancement Program, Heritage transportation analyst Ronald Utt notes that only about 65 percent of federal surface transportation spending is used to support general-purpose roads. The remaining 35 percent is diverted to high-cost, underutilized programs like trolley cars, transit, covered bridges, hiking trails, earmarks, administrative overhead, streetscapes, flower planting, hiking and bicycle paths, museums, “transportation enhancements,” tourist attractions, and archaeology. Utt maintains that states should be allowed the flexibility to use all of their trust fund apportionments for transportation programs of their own choice.
- Congestion pricing works: Sometimes called value pricing, congestion pricing of tolls is a way of harnessing the power of the market to reduce the waste associated with traffic congestion. Congestion pricing works by shifting purely discretionary rush hour highway travel to other transportation modes or to off-peak periods, taking advantage of the fact that the majority of rush hour drivers on a typical urban highway are not commuters. Source: Federal Highway Administration


 Tax credit over for 2011: It’s only November, and the $50 million annual cap on the Georgia Education Expense Tax Credits has already been reached for 2011, the Georgia Department of Revenue announced this week. Thanks to thousands of individual and corporate taxpayers who enthusiastically embraced this nationally recognized school choice program, the Georgia GOAL Scholarship Program (a leading state student scholarship organization), has awarded 5,352 scholarships averaging $4,000 each to public school students from households with an average annual gross income of $25,285. If the Legislature follows Florida’s lead and implements a 2 percent automatic increase in available tax credits whenever taxpayers use at least 90 percent of the cap in the prior year, more Georgia families could benefit from this program.

– Actions with consequences: When President Obama announced changes to rules on repaying college student loans, he said his goal was to ease the financial burden of getting a degree. But if the history of college financial aid (and other government attempts to protect consumers from costs) is any guide, Obama’s plan is likely to backfire, says Investor’s Business Daily. Over the past three decades, financial aid has rocketed up 438 percent after inflation, says the College Board. That’s largely due to huge hikes in more than a dozen federal grant and loan programs.

Energy and environment

– The Nissan Leaf electric vehicle that taxpayers are backing with a $1.4 billion loan to Nissan North America to retrofit a Tennessee plant for its mass production, isn’t electrifying Consumer Reports magazine, Paul Chesser writes for the National Legal and Policy Center. Likewise, the Department of Energy – besides the billions in public money it pours into battery storage research and subsidizing “renewable” energy companies for failed wind and solar technologies – has dumped millions of dollars into the rollout of chargers for the vehicles. That “investment” looks even more wasteful with automakers split on the technology that should be used in the future for the EV chargers. Read Chesser’s account here:


Taxes and spending

– Colorado’s tired of taxes: By a nearly 2-1 margin, Colorado voters rejected a $2.9 billion income and sales tax increase this week. Ostensibly a “temporary” increase marked for education, Proposition 103 would have raised the income tax rate to 5 percent from 4.63 percent and the sales tax to 3 percent from 2.9 percent. A Wall Street Journal editorial notes that claims the “temporary” tax was needed to make up for recent state spending cuts in K-12 and college education are “familiar ploys to sell tax hikes that fund higher spending and typically become permanent.”

– “Temporary” education tax extended: Voters in several metro Atlanta counties approved a five-year extension of the penny special local option sales tax (SPLOST) that will bring $3.2 billion for capital spending in schools. Georgia ranks eighth in the nation in per-student capital spending, a recent Foundation commentary noted.

- Government waste I. The federal government spends about $1.6 billion annually on the upkeep of 45,000 facilities agencies no longer need, the National Research Council reports. Read more here: .
- Government waste II: Dalton's Northwest Georgia Trade and Convention Center continues to operate at a loss of about $1 million a year, using city and county government (taxpayer) money to subsidize its operations. Source: Times Free Press


Health care

– Toothless wonder: Writing in The Wall Street Journal this week, Grace-Marie Turner of the Galen Institute highlights why Obamacare will never work as the drafters intended: “The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled against the individual mandate in August, accurately described it as ‘toothless.’ The penalties – $695 a year or 2.5 percent of income once fully implemented in 2016 – are too weak to induce people to sign up for insurance policies that the Congressional Budget Office estimates could cost $20,000 a year for a family of four. The mandate is also weak operationally because few believe that the federal government will have the political will to actually seek out and penalize people who don’t sign up for insurance.”


Visit to read the Foundation’s latest commentary, “Pipeline from Canada Trickles Down to Georgia,” by Benita Dodd.

Have a great weekend.

Kelly McCutchen


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