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Progressive Revenue Measures Approved or Moving in Oregon and Other States

Progressive Revenue Measures Approved or Moving in Oregon and Other States

Thursday, July 25, 2009

PERMALINK: http://www.progressivestates.org/node/23227

Growing-Economy

By: NATHAN NEWMAN

Progressive Revenue Measures Approved or Moving in Oregon and Other States

Oregon became the latest state to address the current fiscal crisis with progressive revenue increases.  This is part of a welcome trend that we highlighted back in April of states recognizing that budget cuts need to be balanced with wealthier state residents being asked to pay their fair share to address the effects of the economic downturn.

The Oregon legislature approved the creation of two new temporary top income tax brackets with rates of 10.8 and 11 percent and increases in the state's corporate minimum tax (which had not been raised since 1931).  The tax increases for corporations and individuals and couples making more than $250,000 per year will yield $700 million in additional revenue.  

Oregon's action follows New York and Hawaii, who approved similar income tax increases on wealthier earners this year, as did the Minnesota legislature (whose bill was vetoed by Minnesota Governor Pawlenty).  Other states have also taken action or are moving in that direction to raise necessary revenue in a progressive manner:

  • New Jersey is debating a budget that includes $1 billion in income tax increases on the wealthy, with rates increasing from 6.37 percent to 8 percent on household income between $400,000 and $500,000, from 8.97 percent to 10.25 percent for income between $500,000 and $1 million, and from 8.97 percent to 10.75 percent on income over $1 million.
  • The Connecticut legislature is proposing income tax increases on joint filers making more than $500,000 per year (although they face a veto threat from the governor).
  • The Rhode Island House released a budget this past week that would eliminate the preferential treatment of capital gains in that state, thereby treating such income the same as wages.
  • Wisconsin is debating a number of major progressive tax proposals, with the state Assembly approving raising income taxes on individuals earning more than $225,000 and households making more than $300,000 a year, while both chambers have approved cutting back on preferential treatment of capital gains income.
  • Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell indicated that he would support increasing the state's personal income tax rate from 3.07 to 3.57 percent.
  • The North Carolina House budget calls for a combination of sales tax increases along with higher income taxes on couples making more than $200,000 a year.
  • Colorado ended taxpayers’ ability to deduct capital gains income derived from assets or businesses located within the state.
  • Delaware's House budget currently being debated calls for the restoration of the state inheritance tax and an increase from 5.55 percent to 5.95 percent on taxable income from $50,000 to $60,000, from 5.95 percent to 6.95 percent on income from $60,000 to $150,000, and from 5.95 percent to 7.45 percent on income exceeding $150,000.
  • Washington, D.C. Councilman Jim Graham has proposed raising the top tax rate in the District to 8.9 percent, but only for those taxpayers with incomes above $500,000.

As we detailed in April, such tax increases are sound economic policy and help prevent devastating budget cuts that would undermine future growth.  Overall, at least twenty-three states have enacted tax increases of some kind this session and another thirteen are considering it (see map courtesy of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities).

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Increasing-Democracy

By: CAROLINE FAN

Unemployment Reforms Sweep Nation Due to Federal Recovery Incentives

In a time of rising costs, increased unemployment, and declining wages, American workers could easily feel like they’ve been left to fend for themselves. Fortunately, because of incentives and funding included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, as a new National Employment Law Project report details, states across the country have enacted measures to make it easier for unemployed Americans to obtain unemployment insurance (UI) benefits (see also this past Dispatch for some key state models for reform).  Progress this session includes:

  • Half of the states passed measures over the last four months to extend unemployment insurance to groups like low-wage workers, women, part-time workers, and the long-term unemployed usually left outside the system.  This is on top of the eight states and District of Columbia that had already enacted some of those reforms. Under these expanded eligibility measures, an additional 150,000 additional workers a year will be eligible for UI benefits.
  • 21 states changed their laws to extend unemployment insurance benefits by 13-20 weeks if their state’s unemployment rate reaches 6.5 percent. (The most recent monthly update from the Bureau of Labor Statistics says that 33 states are at 6.5 percent unemployment or above).
  • UI reform has been a bipartisan effort with nine Republican governors signing legislation, despite initial unwillingness by some high-profile Republican Governors to adopt the changes. The states which have opted to enact these changes will receive $3.2 billion of funding.
  • About a dozen states are still actively debating measures to enact the required reforms to qualify for ARRA funding, including Delaware, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, North Carolina, and Rhode Island, where bills have passed at least one chamber of the state legislature or required committees.

This historic expansion and reform of unemployment insurance serves as a model for how state and federal government can best collaborate, with initial state experiments creating model legislation, the federal government then providing financial support for other states to emulate those models, followed by state campaigns to help spread those best practices to other states.

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Valuing-Families

By: ADAM THOMPSON

Rx Model Bill to Limit Drug Industry Marketing Enacted in Vermont

Vermont lawmakers enacted the nation's strongest measure limiting the drug industry's marketing influence over physicians.  The bill, S 48, bans gifts from the industry to physicians, including meals and travel, and requires unprecedented disclosure and transparency of relations between the industry and providers.  Said Sharon Treat, Director of the National Legislative Association on Prescription Drug Prices (NLARx) and Maine State Representative, "Vermont now joins Minnesota and Massachusetts in tackling head-on the pervasive influence of payments and gifts on medical practitioners through a ban on many gifts.

As we have written, the drug industry spends $7 billion directly influencing the prescribing decisions of physicians through catered lunches, "educational" conferences, and other gifts - driving up health care costs in the process. Studies show that even small gifts create an unconscious "demand for reciprocity."  Vermont's attorney general reported that physicians received an average $3 million in gifts from drug companies over the past three years.  Compounding this inappropriate influence over physicians' prescribing decisions is the fact that the industry habitually markets the most expensive drugs over medicines that are cheaper and often equally or more effective, as the New York Times reported in 2007. This drives-up costs for state Medicaid programs, families, businesses, and private insurance.

The new Vermont law, which NLARx says sets a "nationally significant standard," bans all gifts from manufacturers of pharmaceuticals, medical devices and biologic products, with few exceptions.  For allowable gifts, such as payments for speaking, consulting, or research, the law includes strict reporting and public disclosure, reports the New England Journal of Medicine. Starting in 2011, Vermont will publish the disclosures through a searchable website.

The Federal Physicians Payment Sunshine Act, designed to bring greater public review of these relationships, has been reintroduced in 2009.  As NLARx's Treat says, legislators should contact their congressional delegation to be sure the law does not preempt stricter state disclosure and gift limit laws like Vermont's.

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Rewarding-Work

By: NATHAN NEWMAN

Worker Freedom Bill Passed in Oregon to Allow Workers to Avoid Mandatory Political or Religious Meetings in Workplace

Too often workers are forced by employers to listen to religious, political, or anti-union propaganda that has nothing to do with their work responsibilities-- yet they are threatened with being fired if they don't attend such employer-mandated meetings.  The Oregon legislature this past week joined New Jersey in giving employees the right to skip such employer propaganda meetings without fearing reprisals.

Oregon's Senate Bill 519 is based on a pretty common sense principle of freedom in our society: individuals shouldn't be forced on pain of firing to hear their religion, politics, or union attacked.  Nothing in the bill prevents an employer from using work space and time to present the employer's view on those subjects, as long as attendance is voluntary (and nothing in the bill gives employees space and time to present alternative viewpoints. Religious and political organizations would be exempt from the law as well).  An employee's right to just skip the meeting is pretty much the most minimal version of freedom you'd expect in a non-totalitarian society.

And yet employers still opposed even this minimal silent free speech right for their employees.  In many ways, the best argument for the bill is the one made by its chief opponent.  J.L. Wilson, a vice president with Associated Oregon Industries, argued:

"Employees work at the pleasure of the employer and the employer is entitled to make a request or demands on an employee's time if the employer pays for it."

So employees in J.L. Wilson's view have zero rights and exist at "the pleasure of the employer"-- essentially the doctrine of every totalitarian society where any rights for individuals is treated as an attack of the ruler.  But as Rep. Mitch Greenlick, D-Portland, noted, "All this does is protect the natural rights of employees; it doesn't hinder employers in any way." 

As we described last year, New Jersey was the first state to approve a "Worker Freedom" law back in 2006, although the Colorado legislature approved it as well that same year only to see it vetoed by their governor. Chambers in New Hampshire, Michigan and Vermont have all approved Worker Freedom bills as well.

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Research Roundup

Recovery plan and green initiatives:

How to Structure a "Play-or-Pay" Requirement on Employers: Lessons from California for National Health Reform - This UC Berkeley Labor Center report uses the experience of state legislation and San Francisco's existing employer responsibility provisions in its city health policy to provide lessons for national reform.

It's Time We Talked: Mandatory Mediation in the Foreclosure Process - This Center for American Progress report highlights city and state mediation programs in reducing the impact of the housing crisis on neighborhoods, uncloging courts, and achieving better resolutions for homeowners, mortgage lenders and servicers, and the community at large.

The Costs of Confinement: Why Good Juvenile Justice Policies Make Good Fiscal Sense - This Justice Policy Institute policy brief details how states can see a net reduction in costs by moving expenditures away from large, congruent care facilities (often called “training schools”) for youth and investing in community-based alternatives. They argue that such a resource realignment can reap better results for communities, taxpayers, and children.

Paid Family Leave: One Solution to Helping Today’s Working Families Meet Their Family Responsibilities at Critical Times - This Sloan Work and Family Research Network brief describes state policy efforts to enact paid family leave and why it's so crucial to families.

Families USA has released new issue briefs on implementation of the Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009 (CHIPRA):

Reports and studies out on immigration:

  • Raids on Workers: Destroying Our Rights: A report from the National Commission on ICE Misconduct and Violations of 4th Amendment Rights headed by the president of the UFCW on Bush-era ICE workplace raids and the systematic abuses of workers' rights during ICE raids.
  • The Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University released The State of the Nation's Housing 2009, finding, among other things, that in order for the housing market to recover, immigration reform is essential.
  • Human Rights Watch's report titled Detained and Dismissed: Women's Struggles to Obtain Health Care in United States Immigration Detention documents dozens of cases in which immigration agency medical staff either failed to respond at all to health problems of women in detention or responded only after considerable delays.
  • The Center on Asian American Children and Families (CACF) has a new report out on how children act as language brokers for parents and the need for more proficient translators in hospitals, schools, and the workplace.
  • Leadership Conference on Civil Rights notes in a new report that a hate crime happens on average, once an hour, every day. Using federal hate crime data, they also show that there's been a marked increase in hate crimes committed against Hispanics and those perceived to be immigrants.
  • The U.S. Department of State has a new pamphlet out, aimed at preventing human trafficking and the exploitation of non-immigrant visa holders.

Resources

Progressive Revenue Measures Approved or Moving in Oregon and Other States

Progressive States Network - Taxing High-Income Residents: Better than Budget Cuts, Better for Economic Growth
Citizens for Tax Justice - The Tax Justice Digest
Center for Budget and Policy Priorities - Tax Measures Help Balance State Budgets: A Common and Reasonable Response to Shortfalls

Unemployment Reforms Sweep Nation Due to Federal Recovery Incentives

National Employment Law Project - Federal Stimulus Funding Produces Unprecedented Wave of State Unemployment Insurance Reforms
Progressive States Network - State Unemployment Insurance Systems Being Modernized in Anticipation of Federal Recovery Program Funds

Rx Model Bill to Limit Drug Industry Marketing Enacted in Vermont

NLARx - Policy Resources, Advertising & Marketing
Progressive States Network - Stop the Corruption of Industry Gifts to Providers
The Prescription Project — Survey finds Americans want to know about physician payments
The Prescription Project — Control Pharmaceutical Marketing to Improve Health Care Quality and Cost: Recommendations for State Policymakers
The Prescription Project — Regulating Industry Payments to Physicians: Identifying and Minimizing Conflicts of Interest

Worker Freedom Bill Passed in Oregon to Allow Workers to Avoid Mandatory Political or Religious Meetings in Workplace

Oregon SB 519
Progressive States Network - Protecting Worker Freedom from Mandatory Meetings
AFL-CIO - Oregon Bill Bans Mandatory Anti-Union Meetings
Paul Secunda - Towards the Viability of State-Based Legislation to Address Workplace Captive Audience Meetings in the United States

Masthead

The Stateside Dispatch is written and edited by:

Nathan Newman, Executive Director
Caroline Fan, Immigration and Workers' Rights Policy Specialist
Julie Schwartz, Broadband and Economic Development Policy Specialist
Christian Smith-Socaris, Election Reform Policy Specialist
Adam Thompson, Health Care Policy Specialist
Julie Bero, Executive Administrator and Outreach Associate
Austin Guest, Communications Specialist
Mike Maiorini, Online Technology Manager
Marisol Thomer, Outreach Coordinator

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