During 2011 legislative sessions, most states chose to close severe budget gaps without revenue increases, instead opting for further damaging and deep cuts to critical education, health care, and social service programs. However, now that most sessions have ended, lawmakers, business leaders, and community groups in a number of states appear to be increasingly interested in taking revenue increases to voters as an alternative.
As the national political conversation focused on deficits and budget cuts over the past few months, many state legislatures have at least noticed that the top concern of voters across the nation remains job creation. Progressive state legislators have taken the lead in many states in advancing economic opportunity and creating jobs, introducing and successfully enacting bills that promise real job creation strategies within the parameters of fostering a sustainable economy, safeguarding the health of our communities, and protecting our environment for future generations.
Last week, the United States Department of Homeland Security issued a decision stating their intention to mandate that states participate in the controversial, ineffective, and costly “Secure Communities” immigration enforcement program. This decision generated confusion and controversy given that the Secure Communities program had previously been described by DHS officials as a voluntary option for states. The announcement last Friday afternoon, which came as a surprise to many advocates, immediately invalidated the roughly 40 agreements that DHS had entered into with individual states or localities regarding their implementation of the program – agreements which the department once argued were required, but which are they now claim are unnecessary.
“By voting yes, Colorado will establish itself as a national leader by reinvesting in our future, our kids, jobs and our economy. It will state loud and clear that we are open for business. That’s the best economic development message we can send.”
- State Senator Rollie Heath (D-CO), after delivering petitions for a November ballot measure that would temporarily increase the state’s income and sales taxes to fund education.
Research Roundup: Sky High Unemployment, the Plight of African American Workers and Reforms for Credit Rating Agencies
In this week’s Research Roundup: Reports from the Economic Policy Institute on two and half years of sky-high unemployment, the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy on understanding tax bases and tax rates, the Women of Color Policy Network on the plight of African-American workers, and a 2010 report from Demos on potential reforms for credit rating agencies.
Two-and-a-half years of a job-seeker’s ratio above 4-to-1 - The Economic Policy Institute released this analysis of this week’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It found that as the number of job openings increased by 75,000 in June, the ratio of unemployed workers to job openings remained 4.5-to-1 - a slight improvement from the previous month, but “still extremely high.” A chart included in the analysis shows the rapid rise in the ratio of job seekers to job openings around the time of Great Recession that has yet to substantially decline. The fact that United States workers have seen two and a half years of a job seekers’ ratio substantially above 4-to-1 explains why, according to EPI’s analysis, extending “current extended unemployment insurance benefits, which last a maximum of 99 weeks, remain crucial.”
Tax Policy Nuts and Bolts: Understanding the Tax Base and Tax Rate - This Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy policy brief explains the basic terms of the “tax base” and “tax rate” commonly used in tax policy discussions. ITEP notes how, “since these concepts are often confusing, having a grasp on the ins and outs of tax bases and rates will help provide a better understanding of how all state and local taxes work.”
First to Fall, Last to Climb: Black Workers in the New Economy - The Women of Color Policy Network at New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service published this policy brief outlining how recent studies have shown that “workers of color, Blacks in particular, have been left behind in both the recession and in the nascent economic recovery.” The report suggests “targeted and aggressive programs” to reverse this trend, including extending federal unemployment benefits, expanding jobless benefits at the state level, and supporting education and training programs for people of color in disadvantaged communities to provide "early links" to the labor market.
Reforming the Rating Agencies: A Solution that Fits the Problem - This 2010 briefing paper from Demos on potential reforms for credit rating agencies is timely once again in the wake of the recent downgrade of the United States by ratings agency Standard and Poors, which is already having an effect on the credit ratings of individual states. The report led off by strongly noting how the major credit rating agencies - Moody’s, Standard & Poors, and Fitch - all bore "a heavy burden of responsibility for the financial meltdown." It recommended at the very least the implementation of "a strong and independent watchdog agency to set basic ground rules for the ratings agencies, and to do spot-audits of their work."
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