TX: Cleaning Up the School Finance Mess

Facing state Supreme Court decisions demanding both equitable financing of public schools and reforms to the state property tax, the special session in the Lone Star State accomplished one big item of business yesterday -- reforming the bizarre loophole-ridden state franchise tax and actually applying it to a broad range of businesses, thereby lowering the rate but also raising $3.4 billion when it starts in 2008.

Real Solutions on Immigration

Yesterday, the Washington Post reported that with the federal government failing to act on immigration issues, states are taking the lead. Unfortunately, the Post quickly turns the article into the same tired dichotomy of bills either "get[ting] tough" or "making life easier" for immigrants -- failing to consider whether any of the measures actually solve the problem.

Lowering the Bar: America's Worst Governors

The story of American democracy is one of heroes and disappointments. Every day in this great nation, elected leaders make their constituents proud by fighting for democracy, working families, and American families. And then there are the disappointments: the elected officials who play politics with people's lives and shill for special interests.

WI: Real Health Care for All Workers

After the botched Massachusetts health care bill, it's nice to see Wisconsin is stepping up with a really bold health care plan.

New Latino Voters May Change Political Map

"Today we march, tomorrow we vote!" - the chant at the recent immigration rights rallies -- may translate into a changed electoral landscape in many states across the country.

Investing in Estate Tax Reform: How 18 Families are Working to Strip Billions From the States

What was once a brilliant line from a screenwriter is now a solid rule of politics: "Follow the money." And true to that adage, when the federal government scaled back the estate tax, eighteen billionaire families were behind it, as documented in a new report by Public Citizen and United for a Fair Economy. And that "billionaire club" assault means that thirty-two states that peg their estate taxes to federal law lose as much as $5 billion per year in revenues.

Cracking Down on Wage Law Violations

One thing you can say-- the current debate on immigration is at last focusing attention on the pervasive violations of our labor laws in sweatshops and other parts of the low-wage economy. But instead of getting national legislation to shut down sweatshops around the country, we are getting policies to punish some of the victims -- while leaving the underground economy that breeds undocumented immigration largely in place.

The facts of illegal violations of our wage laws have been clear for years:

IL: Culture of Corruption Nets Former Gov 10-20

Republican Former Illinois Governor George Ryan was convicted this week on eighteen counts, including racketeering, mail fraud, false statements, and tax violations. His crime? Selling out the public for profit gain. While the Governor awaits sentencing -- his crimes may earn him as much as ten-twenty years in federal prison -- his case offers lessons for all of us.

AZ: Posturing on Immigration; Failing on Wages

For the right wing in the Arizona state legislature, their only response to sweatshop employers using low-wage undocumented immigrants has been to try to make criminals of the undocumented workers themselves, even as they've opposed raising minimum wage standards to eliminate the sweatshops which financially benefit from exploited immigrants in the first place.

Smart Growth and Affordable Housing

There's a piece of rhetoric out there that smart growth policies increase housing costs, therefore driving working families out of urban areas to the exurban fringe. Daniel Goldberg of Smart Growth America responds with this post emphasizing that the real problem is that the principles of smart growth -- ensuring that "development makes efficient use of land and the roads, sewers, schools and other infrastructure we all pay for" -- have still only had minimal impact on suburban sprawl.