Saving Jobs: More Federal Action Needed on State Fiscal Relief

Saving Jobs: More Federal Action Needed on State Fiscal Relief

Thursday, April 1, 2010



Happy Census Day!  Please join Progressive States Network on Thursday, April 1st at 3 pm EST, for a national conference call to discuss the implications of the decennial Census for state and local communities and how states can maximize their benefits from engaging with the Census process. 

On the call, speakers will discuss best practices in state and local coordination on the Census; outline lessons learned from the 2000 Census and how they can be applied to this year's effort; highlight outreach and education strategies to include hard-to-count communities, including rural populations, in the Census tally; and proactive legislative action states can take to ensure fair redistricting practices.

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Saving Jobs: More Federal Action Needed on State Fiscal Relief

Last month, President Barack Obama signed the $17.5 billion Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment (HIRE) Act into law to assist small businesses and spur job creation.  This was definitely a start, but the gravity of the current crisis demands much bolder and quicker action.  Congress needs to enact further state fiscal relief to support jobs and avoid the massive layoffs that threaten social and economic vitality in the states.

Federal action is still needed to provide support for state Medicaid programs by extending the increased medical assistance percentages (FMAP), boost funding for educational programs, invest in infrastructure projects and public transportation, support the long-term unemployed to sustain them until they reenter the workforce, and provide direct and comprehensive financial assistance to state and local governments to perform the vital services needed to maintain growth in local communities.

In the past few months, Congress has started to take action:

  • Jobs for Main Street Act (H.R. 2847):  On December 16, 2009, the House passed this bill, which would redirect money from the Wall Street bailout to fund environmental and infrastructure projects, extend FMAP, support education jobs, and provide small business loans.  The bill would additionally provide funding to public safety and law enforcement jobs, address public housing needs, and invest in clean and safe water projects.
  • American Workers, State, and Business Relief Act of 2010 (H.R.4213):  On March 10, the Senate passed this piece of legislation to provide state fiscal relief through FMAP increases, provide support for the long-term unemployed though Unemployment Insurance and COBRA extensions through the end of December 2010, reverse a scheduled 21 percent payment cut for doctors who provide services through Medicare, and extend several tax breaks, such as the research and development tax credit.  The bill also raises almost $40 billion in new revenue by reducing a biofuel tax break utilized by the paper industry and strengthening tax shelter rules.
  • The Local Jobs for America Act (H.R. 4812):  Rep. George Miller (D-CA) introduced this bill last month to provide $75 billion to local communities to hire needed staff over two years, funding for 50,000 private-sector training jobs, $23 billion to support education and teaching positions, and $1.18 billion for law enforcement.  Overall, the legislation would appropriate $100 billion to job creation efforts.  Within a month of its introduction, the bill already has 105 co-sponsors.

Individuals and advocacy organizations should press their Congressional leaders on the need for action.  If you are a state or local lawmaker, please sign onto this letter calling on the President and Congress to enact a comprehensive jobs plan, including relief to states and local governments to foster economic growth and create and maintain jobs.

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Colorado Leads Clean Energy Reform

This session, Colorado continues its tradition of being a national leader in championing clean energy reform through legislative efforts that expand its renewable energy standards, reduce the amount of pollution from coal, and promote the funding of clean energy development.

Increasing Energy from Renewables:  Last week, the state enacted one of the most far-reaching clean energy laws in the country, requiring 30 percent of large utilities’ electricity to come from renewable energy resources by 2020 and becoming the 31st state, in addition to the District of Columbia, to have renewable energy requirements. 

Under HB 1001, utilities must supply at least 12 percent of their retail electric sales from such sources from 2011 to 2014, 20 percent from 2015 to 2019, and 30 percent for 2020 and beyond.  Three percent of this standard must be met by local solar power, leading to the construction and installation of 100,000 solar rooftops, panels, and turbines.  As we detailed in a previous Dispatch, the great advantages of solar investment include the high number of components that are involved in installing solar power systems.  Manufacturing and installing these devices requires a large and diverse workforce that cannot be outsourced overseas, guaranteeing that these jobs will remain in the states.  In fact, more than 200 solar companies already operate in Colorado, and with this boost, more companies will be moving there to create even more job opportunities.  “This bill will boost the New Energy Economy and grow Colorado’s renewable energy markets,” said Mary Broderick, renewable energy and marketing agent with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 68, which will help train a new generation of solar installers.”  A wide coalition of stakeholders also backed the law, including environmental groups like Environment Colorado, and the largest utility in Colorado, Xcel Energy, which serves 70 percent of the state’s population. 

The Colorado law will be one of the strongest in the nation, falling just short of California's standard which will require utilities to derive 33 percent of their electricity from renewable by 2020.  But, with California already falling short of the 2010 goal, there is an emphasis on the need for ongoing work to ensure that these standards become reality.  Still, the Colorado bill promises to create a diverse portfolio of energy resources to keep energy affordable in the long term, and similar renewable energy standards have been shown to be an efficient method for promoting renewable energy use in the states.

Cutting Emissions from Coal: This morning, Colorado Governor Ritter signed the Clean Air-Clean Jobs Act, obliging rate-regulated utilities that operate coal-fired electric generating units to reduce emissions or consider converting from coal generation to natural gas.  Under HB 1365, utilities must submit to the public utilities commission an emission reduction plan for emissions covering the lesser of 900 megawatts or 50 percent of the utility’s coal-fired electric generating units in Colorado.  Utilities such as Xcel Energy must prepare a comprehensive plan to reduce nitrogen-oxides pollution by up to 80 percent at its coal-burning plants, which could cut Xcel’s Colorado coal fleet by 30% and a cut of as much as 5 million tons a year in carbon pollution.  

Xcel has entered negotiations with state officials and agreed to support this bill, announcing that some its coal plants could operate with retrofits and others could be replaced by natural gas.  In exchange, the bill allows Xcel to lock in prices in deals lasting up to 20 years.  Gov. Bill Ritter and environmental advocacy groups are also backing HB 1365, although not all are on board with this bill, including a number of labor unions who fear job loss in the mining and railroad industries.  Some conservation groups are also worried that natural gas development may lead to a wide set of problems, ranging from reduced air and water quality to increased costs.

Investing in Clean Energy Development:  Finally, the Colorado House has passed HB 1182, which seeks to expand loans and financing agreements to facilitate electric power interconnection projects, which is especially critical for rural areas that need to access energy from Colorado’s main power grid in an energy-efficient manner.  As the Progressive States Network and its partner organizations highlighted in our report Networking the Green Economy, smart technologies are needed to transport energy from solar panels and wind farms to consumers.

Each of these bills is a step toward continuing Colorado's national leadership in fostering a greener future.

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Progressive Legislators Challenge Right-Wing Obstruction on Health Care

Even as right-wing state legislators and attorneys general from various states unleash a barrage of attacks in an attempt to halt federal health reform before it starts, progressive state legislators and officials have been pushing back, highlighting the benefits that states will receive and the increased provision of quality and affordable care for families through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. 

Most of the right-wing efforts have consisted of state Attorneys General joining lawsuits against the Obama Administration challenging the constitutionality of reform, and state legislators supporting purely symbolic and patently unconstitutional bills attempting to nullify federal law -- bills promoted by the insurance company-funded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Constitutional experts across the ideological spectrum have deemed both the lawsuits and bills "meritless" and "irresponsible", and progressive legislators have been pushing back strongly against this right-wing obstruction by highlighting the partisan and frivolous nature of these tactics. In doing so, progressives are placing the focus back where it belongs: on the effective implementation of the Affordable Care Act at the state level so that families will start to see the benefits of the federal reforms as soon as possible.  A few examples:

  • Washington legislative leaders have highlighted the political nature and wasteful cost of the anti-health care lawsuit being brought by Attorney General McKenna, sending him a letter asking him to reconsider his decision, and noting the possibility of restricting his ability to spend taxpayer dollars on the lawsuit through the budgetary process. 
  • Texas legislators sent Attorney General Abbott a letter questioning his expenditure of taxpayer money on the suit without legislative authorization.
  • Virginia officials and lawmakers have successfully pressured Attorney General Cuccinelli by requesting public records on Attorney General Cucinelli's involvement in his own separate lawsuit, and highlighting the many hours that will be wasted "tilting at this windmill" by the Attorney General's taxpayer-funded staff. 
  • Pennsylvania legislators sent letters to Attorney General Corbett, who has joined the multi-state lawsuit, to explain exactly which priorities his staff will be ignoring as a result of having to concentrate on the suit.
  • Maine legislators successfully rejected an effort by conservative lawmakers to force the Attorney General to sign on to the suit, and Kansas lawmakers successfully rejected an attempt to amend the state constitution to nullify federal reform.
  • In Louisiana and Alabama, African-American lawmakers have taken the lead in pushing back against the obstructive tactics of anti-reform forces.  In Louisiana, the 27-member Legislative Black Caucus asked Democratic Attorney General Buddy Caldwell to withdraw from the multi-state lawsuit that challenged the constitutionality of federal health care reform. Caucus Chairwoman Regina Barrow pledged to file an amicus brief on behalf of the people of Louisiana in the case presenting a counterargument to the Attorney General's views, and to oppose any legislative attempts to hinder Louisiana's participation in Affordable Care Act. In Alabama, the Legislative Black Caucus, whose membership comprises one-quarter of all legislators in the state, spoke out against a conservative-led effort to pass a state constitutional amendment to nullify the federal plan.

Meanwhile, in the wake of the bill's passage, the political environment seems to be growing more friendly for those working to effectively implement reform, and more dangerous for those who opposed reform and are now working for its obstruction, nullification, or outright repeal.  In several states, including Florida, Idaho, and Utah, lawmakers working against federal reform are now being criticized in their local press. Progressives are starting to take advantage of this shift in public perception.  In Arizona, progressive lawmakers have been leading the fight to restore their state's Childrens' Health Insurance Program that was cut days before the signing of federal reform, and calling out Gov. Brewer and conservative legislators for focusing on a frivolous lawsuit instead of the needs of children in their state.

For talking points on arguments some are using to challenge the Attorneys General lawsuits, please click here.

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Eye on the Right: Attempting to Block Protections for Gay Community, Oklahoma Senate Removes Hate Crime Protections for Race and Religion Instead

Right-wing legislators often disassociate gay rights from civil rights, yet their actions demonstrate that hate against one group can inevitably lead to the same toward another.  Take Oklahoma, where several right-wing lawmakers were livid following President Barack Obama's signing of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in October, extending federal hate crimes protections to the gay and lesbian community. 

Oklahoma Sen. Steve Russell stated that he did not want protection for "a special class of people" and feared that religious leaders that spoke out against certain lifestyle choices would be "imprisoned for their speech."  He led a successful effort to approve SB1965, which prohibits state law enforcement from sharing information regarding hate crimes with federal officials if the state does not recognize the crime as such through its statutes.  As the state does not recognize sexual orientation or gender identity in its hate crime law, this bill essentially intended to block protection of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community in Oklahoma.  However, the legislation cites the wrong statute--rather than Title 18 USC Section 249, which references sexual orientation and gender identity, the state Senate incorrectly cited Section 245 in the bill, which provides protections for race and religion. 

As Sen. Minority Leader Andrew Rice related, “[g]ay and lesbian citizens should be upset because someone tried to take their rights away, but minority groups should be concerned that their rights have already been voted to be taken away by the Senate."  The legislation has yet to be voted on in the House and the Equality Network is working diligently against this bill.  But, this action is indicative of continuing right-wing efforts to deny protections to the gay community and subvert the fact that LGBT rights are inextricably linked to both civil and human rights.

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Research Roundup

More Effective Budget and Economic Development Strategies

  • Solutions That Work for Main Street: Progressive Guidelines for Closing Recessionary State Budget Gaps - United for a Fair Economy's Tax Fairness Organizing Collaborative (TFOC) released this report outlining progressive solutions to provide more equitable, sustainable, and economically and fiscally responsible method of dealing with budget gaps.  Rather than a budget based primarily on cuts, which would hamper economic recovery, state lawmakers should consider more sensible alternatives, including: creating a fairer tax system, providing more funding for infrastructure investments through effective borrowing, utilizing rainy day funds, building trust funds, sunsetting ineffective tax expenditures, and encouraging enhanced federal-state revenue sharing.
  • Strengthening State Economic Development Systems: A Framework for Change - State governments spend billions on seeking to attract and create jobs through tax subsidies, infrastructure support, preferential financing, management assistance, and customized training, yet have not delivered significant benefits for low-income workers and usually encouraged economic activity that would have happened regardless, according to this report by the Working Poor Families Project.  The report argues instead that economic development should focus more on raising the education and skills levels of the current workforce and tie this into long-range industry sector development and coordination.
  • America Insecure: Changes in the Economic Security of American Families - This Urban Institute report highlights stagnating household income in the context of long-term trends in economic mobility and income instability for low-income working families.  The report recommends job creation policies that encourage employers to hire new employees, strengthen state workforces, and training programs aimed at low-income working families looking to move into middle- and high-skill jobs.  To deal with income shocks and overall economic insecurity, the report also recommends strengthening social insurance and disability programs.
  • Counting in a Crisis: How the Economic Recession Endangers North Carolina’s 2010 Census Count - This report by the Institute for Southern Studies looks at how the Great Recession and housing crisis have put hard-hit areas at a high risk of being under-counted -- and losing millions in federal dollars, making a bad situation worse.  The report also shows why Census officials, state leaders and civic groups need to consider recent changes in the economy if they want to boost Census participation.
  • The State of Working Maine: Choices for the Recession and Beyond - In dealing with a shrinking economy, this report by the Maine Center for Economic Policy argues policymakers must appreciate the role that government played in growing America’s middle class during the last century and take the lead in positioning us for future growth and prosperity.  The state should invest in education, health care, energy efficiency and critical infrastructure, while strengthening the middle class through property tax relief, indexing the minimum wage to keep pace with wage growth, support family security with paid sick leave and ensure that business tax credits go only to programs promoting quality jobs.

Gains in the States: Consumer Advocacy and Federal-State Alliances Help Expand Health Coverage - Despite the Great Recession, this Community Catalyst report finds that 41 states improved access to quality affordable health care in 2009 due to joint federal and state support.  While states targeted Medicaid and CHIP programs for budget savings, most states did not cut eligibility for these safety-net programs in 2009, just as they did not in 2008.  Medicaid enrollment grew 7.5 percent from June 2008 to June 2009, and it was projected to grow another 6.6 percent by mid 2010.

The Council of State Governments (CSG) and the RAND Corporation will host a free webinar on Tuesday, April 6 from 2:00-3:30 PM (EST) to highlight key impacts of the new federal health care reform law and provide an opportunity for state officials to ask questions of experts in the state/federal health policy arena.  With the enactment of federal health reform legislation, states are confronted with a new challenge in the midst of the worst budget crisis in more than 70 years.  The financial impact of the legislation will vary, with some states anticipating high costs due to expanding Medicaid populations while others are anticipating significant cost savings over the next several years.

The Democratic Policy Committee provides a state by state breakdown of the key benefits that together, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act will provide in each state. It summarizes the benefits in terms of the number of children who will benefit, number of seniors, numbers of the uninsured, small businesses, the number of people who will receive subsidies, the number of jobs created and other key statistics.

The Commonwealth Fund's March/April 2010 issue of States in Action focuses on federal and state efforts to enhance access to basic care. The report describes a range of strategies available to states, largely involving efforts to expand and leverage the primary care workforce and to develop and test new models of care delivery.

Paid Sick Leave Does Not Harm Employment - Seventeen states considered paid sick days legislation this year and this new Drum Major Institute report finds that, based on the record of San Francisco, which implemented paid sick days in 2007, the policy does not undermine employment.  In fact, San Francisco has suffered less job loss than surrounding counties without paid sick days legislation.  In particular, industries where paid sick days had the most impact, including hospitality and food services, did much better on employment in San Francisco than other local communities.

Government Contracting and Strengthening Public Services

  • Contracting that Works: A Toolkit for State and Local Governments - State and local governments finance millions of jobs across our economy with the hundreds of billions of dollars they spend each year to purchase goods and services, yet few have clear and strong standards to assure that those jobs raising living standards and workers rights in the economy.  This toolkit by the Center for American Progress Action Fund and the National Employment Law Project detail strategies to improve transparency and accountability, including better review of contracting out decisions, pre-screen contractors, wage and benefit standards, strong post-award enforcement, and better data collection and transparency.
  • Annual Living Wage Ordinance Report for Fiscal Year 2009 - Highlighting the gains from raising quality and wage standards on government contracts, this City of San Diego report on the results of passage of its 2005 living wage ordinance demonstrate that the policy has enhanced the quality of many companies' service provision to the city, reduced absenteeism and turnover, and allowed low-income workers the opportunity to access health care coverage.
  • Innovation in Action - This new video produced by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) features three different and innovative projects started by SEIU members that highlight how public employees improve the services government provides, while saving taxpayers money.  These include reducing waste and increasing environmental consciousness in schools, increasing speed and quality of client services in human services, and more efficient stolen vehicle recovery programs.

Opportunity for All: How the American Public Benefits from Internet Access at U.S. Libraries - Nearly one-third of the US population over the age of 14 uses library computers to access the Internet, and those in poverty relied on these resources even more, according to this report by the University of Washington Information School and the Institute of Museum and Library Services . Almost half of library visitors access the Internet - whether they have it at home or not -  and use it to connect with other persons, for educational purposes, to look for employment, to obtain health information, or to look for government resources. Its recommendations to state and local government are to: include libraries in comprehensive broadband deployment and adoption strategies, partner with and invest in public libraries to broaden educational opportunities for K-12 students and adults, support libraries as points of access for eGovernment services, and support technology services that build communities.

Greener Skills: How Credentials Create Value in the Clean Energy Economy - Examining the competing skills benchmarks that differ by industry, employer, and training provider for green industries, this Center on Wisconsin Strategy (COWS) report outlines key early steps toward a national credentialing system and provides a set of policy recommendations to help move this work in a more consistent direction, including integrating green jobs initiatives into existing training systems and a stronger focus on assuring upward mobility within clean energy job sectors.

A Program in Flux: new Priorities and Implementation Challenges for 287(g) - A new Migration Policy Institute report examines changes to the Department of Homeland Security's controversial 287(g) program, which seeks to train state and local police officers to enforce federal immigration laws. According to the report, the proposed new agreements between the Department of Homeland Security and police departments reflects two new priorities on the part of federal immigration authorities: 1) a renewed focus on immigration enforcement efforts that target and deport immigrants accused of violent crimes; and 2) increased federal control over immigration enforcement operations in states that occur under the aegis of the 287(g) program.   Critics of the program have expressed widespread concerns the program erodes community policing practices; results in racial profiling of immigrants regardless of whether they are undocumented; and blurs the line between civil (immigration) law and criminal law. the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) has criticized the program for its lax federal oversight and unclear priorities, and numerous police chiefs and law enforcement professionals have also expressed concerns about the high costs associated with the program. 

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Saving Jobs: More Federal Action Needed on State Fiscal Relief

Campaign for America's Future - Major New Jobs Bill Gains 105 Co-Sponsoring
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities - Recession Continues to Batter State Budgets; State Responses Could Slow Recovery
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities - An Update on State Budget Cuts
Economic Policy Institute - Dire states--State and Local Budget Relief Needed
Economic Policy Institute - Jobs Crisis Fact Sheet
Progressive States Network - Take Action: Additional Federal Job Creation and State Fiscal Relief

Colorado Leads Clean Energy Reform

Colorado HB 10-1001
Colorado HB 10-1365
Colorado HB 10-1182
Progressive States Network — Renewable Portfolio Standards Across the States
Progressive States Network - Solar Energy Continues to Make Its Case - Now as a Job Creator
Progressive States Network — Networking the Green Economy: How Broadband and Related Technologies Can Build a Green Economic Future
BusinessWeekColorado Gas-Coal Fight Could Preview National Battle
Center for American Progress — Xcel-erating Natural Gas in Colorado
In Denver Times - Ritter Signs Historic Renewable Energy Bill, Increasing Standard to 30% by 2020
New York TimesColorado Increases Renewable Requirements

Eye on the Right: Attempting to Block Protections for Gay Community, Oklahoma Senate Removes Hate Crime Protections for Race and Religion Instead

Center for American Progress - In Seeking To Strip LGBT Oklahomans of Hate Crimes Protections, Oklahoma Removes Protections for Race and Religion
The Equality Network - TEN Reacts to Oklahoma Senate Obstructing Federal Hate Crimes Law
The Oklahoma Daily - Lawmaker Says Hate Crimes Bill Contains Error
American Civil Liberties Union - LBGT Rights


The Stateside Dispatch is written and edited by:

Nathan Newman, Executive Director
Nora Ranney, Legislative Director
Marisol Thomer, Outreach Director
Fabiola Carrion, Broadband & Green Jobs Policy Specialist
Enzo Pastore, Health Care Policy Specialist
Suman Raghunathan, Immigrant Rights Policy Specialist
Altaf Rahamatulla, Tax & Budget Policy Specialist
Julie Bero, Outreach and Administrative Specialist
Charles Monaco, Press and New Media Specialist
Mike Maiorini, Online Technology Manager

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