How corporate America is losing the debate on taxes
Jia Lynn Yang, Washington Post: March 5 at 9:07 am
If there is one clear loser in President Obama's budget this year, it's U.S. multinationals. .... So much for the White House's attempts to strike common ground with big company chief executives, who have been howling for years about paying too much in taxes with the federal corporate tax rate at 35 percent. The trouble with those complaints is that many companies don't pay nearly that rate. GE, for instance, in its most recent annual filing said it paid an effective tax rate of 4.2 percent. (See this graphic we ran last year showing taxes paid by companies in the Dow 30.) These firms insist that the high rate is merely forcing them to find complex ways to lower their tax bills. But with this budget, it's clear the administration isn't buying it.
Unions Air Criticisms of Obama Budget Plan
MELANIE TROTTMAN Wall Street Journal, Mar 5, 2014
Republicans aren’t the only ones criticizing President Barack Obama’s budget proposal for fiscal 2015. Labor unions, some of Mr. Obama’s most loyal supporters, made some critiques of their own. .... AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka applauded
President Obama for proposing “good starting points to seriously address inequality,” such as Mr. Obama’s “proposals to invest in jobs, raise the minimum wage, expand the EITC [earned-income tax credit], close tax loopholes for the wealthy and provide access to universal pre-kindergarten,” Mr. Trumka said. But Mr. Trumka added a caveat: “However, we cannot afford cuts to Medicare beneficiaries,” he said.
Obama’s Budget Is a Populist Wish List and an Election Blueprint
JACKIE CALMES, New York Times, MARCH 4, 2014
President Obama sent Congress a $3.9 trillion budget request on Tuesday that stands as a platform for Democrats to run on in this election year, full of policies intended to invite contrasts with Republicans rather than offer compromises as he did last year, without success. Mr. Obama’s budget for the 2015 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, reflects his aspirations in his waning presidency, regardless of the political reality he confronts. The document, his sixth budget, seeks to energize Democratic voters with populist proposals like a more generous tax credit for the working poor, paid for with higher taxes on the rich.
State Pension Funding Reaches 75%, Wilshire Says in Study
Darrell Preston Mar 4, 2014 11:27 PM Bloomberg
U.S. state pensions driven by a booming stock market continued to recover last year as the value of their assets rose to 75 percent of liabilities, up 3 percentage points from 2012, according to Wilshire Consulting. The funding level was the highest since 2008, when it reached 81 percent, according to data on 134 state retirement systems compiled by Santa Monica, California-based Wilshire. The 10-year peak was 95 percent in 2007, while the low was 64 percent in 2009.
Obama to take minimum-wage push to Conn.
David Nakamura, Washington Post: March 4
President Obama will try to jump-start his domestic agenda Wednesday by appearing in Connecticut with four governors who support his push to raise the minimum wage.
Report: Minimum wage hike would cut food stamp spending by $4.6 billion a year
Michael A. Fletcher, Washington Post: Wednesday, March 5, 2014
Raising the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour would reduce federal food stamp spending by $4.6 billion a year, according to a report to be released Wednesday by the liberal-leaning Center for American Progress. The proposal, a top legislative priority for President Obama and congressional Democrats, would reduce enrollment in the food stamp program by as much as 9.2 percent, the report said.
Income Inequality, State by State
CLYDE WEISS | AFSCME blog, MARCH 04, 2014
... The state-by-state analysis, titled “The Increasingly Unequal States of America: Income Inequality by State,” offers a bleak look at America’s fiscal pie. It shows that the richest Americans took a bigger slice in all 50 states between 1917 and 2011 – so big, in fact, that when income growth resumed in 2009 it was nearly all at the upper end of the income scale. The average income of the top 1 percent, $1.04 million in 2011, was 24.4 times greater than the average income of the bottom 99 percent ($42,694), according to the report, published by the Economic Policy Institute for the Economic Analysis and Research Network (EARN).
Local Governments Fear Plan to Tax Bond Interest Threatens Road Funding
Nathan Hurst Roll Call, March 4, 2014, 3:03 p.m.
House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp’s proposed tax overhaul got high marks last week from federal transportation leaders for committing to prop up the ailing Highway Trust Fund, but it is drawing criticism from state and local officials who depend on municipal bonds to finance infrastructure projects. .... Currently, interest paid on municipal bonds is generally exempt from federal taxes — an indirect subsidy by the federal government that makes the bonds more attractive to investors and reduces financing costs for state and local governments. Under Camp’s plan, a new 10 percent surtax on the very wealthy would apply to municipal bond interest along with other income.
There's No Need to End Saturday Mail Delivery
BERNIE SANDERS Wall Street Journal March 4, 2014 7:06 p.m.
The U.S. Postal Service is one of our most popular and important government agencies. .... Yet the Postal Service is under constant and vicious attack. Why? The answer is simple. There are very powerful and wealthy special interests who want to privatize or dismember virtually every function that government now performs, whether it is Social Security, Medicare, public education or the Postal Service. They see an opportunity for Wall Street and corporate America to make billions in profits out of these services, and couldn't care less how privatization or a degradation of services affects ordinary Americans.
LABOR VOICES UAW not deterred by southern setback
BOB KING, President UAW, Detroit News, MARCH 5, 2014
In recent weeks, there has been a lot of chatter about union versus nonunion, what value unions can bring, and whether a union has any value in a state like Tennessee. The best response is to take a look at how collective bargaining and collaboration saved nearly 2,400 jobs of Tennesseans and created more than $350 million in investments for workers and communities in Tennessee. .... The UAW is working with many domestic manufacturing companies, making sure they are efficient and profitable. In auto and other manufacturing sectors UAW members have been sharing in the success of their employers through collectively bargained, transparent and rewarding profit sharing plans.
Medicaid Expansion Spurs States to Fight Fraud, Overpayments
Susan Milligan, Special to Stateline, March 5, 2014
The expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act has spurred states to redouble their anti-fraud efforts. (AP) States are stepping up efforts to combat health care fraud and overpayments that cost them billions of dollars a year. States are assigning special investigators, sharing information with each other and using new ways of looking at data to track improper coding and identify suspicious health care providers before they collect unauthorized cash from Medicaid, which is funded jointly by states and the federal government.
‘Doc Fix’ Puts Republicans in Election-Year Bind
Daniel Newhauser Roll Call at 10 a.m. on March 4
Majority Leader Eric Cantor is dithering about bringing up legislation to stave off massive pay cuts for doctors set to begin at the end the month, as he worries about political consequences should hospital and nursing home budgets be slashed to pay for the costly bill.
Harry Reid continues showdown with Kochs
Burgess Everett, Politico, March 4, 2014 04:23 PM
Harry Reid is leading a concerted election-year strategy by Democrats to demonize the Koch brothers, starting on the Senate floor. The Senate majority leader again lit into Charles and David Koch on Tuesday, showing little regard for GOP criticisms of his previous attacks on the billionaire brothers. Reid refused to back away from his previous assessment that the brothers are “un-American,” deeming their philosophy one “that benefits billionaires at the expense of the middle class.”
Opinion: Social impact bonds: An investment in the wrong direction
RICARDO ACUÑA, EDMONTON JOURNAL MARCH 4, 2014
.... The truth is that the private money will only flow to those projects which can guarantee success, and leave any innovative or creative projects out in the cold. .... In the end, these bonds accomplish none of their promises: There is no risk transfer, because investors will not fund projects that might fail; they accomplish no government savings, because governments remain the only ones willing to fund the truly creative and innovative programs; and they ultimately cost the government more money in the long run because government will still need to pay out a rate of return to investors.
Alabama Senate OKs bonus for retired state workers
6:07 pm, Tue Mar 4, 2014 (AP)
The Alabama Senate is trying to give retired state employees their first pension bonus since 2008. .... Under Marsh's bill, retired state employees would get $2 per month for each year of service. A retiree who worked 25 years would get $600. Everyone would get at least $300 even if the formula worked out to less, Marsh said.
Arkansas Compromise Medicaid Expansion Stays Alive
March 5, 2014 ANDREW DeMILLO Associated Press
Arkansas' first-in-the-nation plan that uses Medicaid funds to buy private insurance for the poor survived an effort to defund it Tuesday, as lawmakers gave final approval to continue a program that has extended health coverage to nearly 94,000 people.
CA: AFSCME union calls for strike vote after tentative agreement discussed with
March 4, 2014 3:56 pm Daily Bruin
The University of California’s largest union announced Tuesday it will vote next week on whether to authorize a strike for its patient care workers, claiming the University has backtracked on its negotiations with them .... The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299 alleges the University said it might give itself the power to lay off any number of patient care workers in case of an internal emergency, such as if the University hospitals run low on revenue, said Todd Stenhouse, a spokesman for the union.
CA: Pensions contribute to rise in state worker costs
Associated Press 03/04/2014 01:44:23 PM
State government's employee compensation costs have risen substantially over the last two decades and are expected to keep climbing, according to a nonpartisan analysis released Tuesday. The Legislative Analyst's Office says the increased costs to taxpayers are largely because of rising pension and health benefit expenses.
FL: Gov. Rick Scott gets personal and political in State of State speech
STEVE BOUSQUET Herald/Times March 4, 2014
Florida Gov. Rick Scott delivered an election-year State of the State address to the Legislature on Tuesday in which he contrasted his own “courage” in handling Florida’s improving economy with the “terrible mess” left behind by his predecessor and likely opponent, former Gov. Charlie Crist.
FL: Two EEOC cases against AP dismissed
March 5, 2014 8:00 am By PHIL ATTINGER, News Sun
Two federal cases against Avon Park have been dismissed. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was unable to conclude that discrimination had occurred in cases filed by former city employees Sally Perry and Gloria Shrum. ... Both Perry and Schrum were officers in the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Local 3597, and have alleged that layoffs that dropped the city’s workforce from 103 full-time employees to 50 people targeted union members. However, an arbitrator ruled against that complaint.
IL: AFSCME wants $2.8 million in back pay for local members
Eric Timmons, qconline.com March 4, 2014
-- The state owes $2.8 million in back pay to 463 state employees in the Quad-Cities region, according to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union. In 2011, Gov. Pat Quinn suspended pay raises that had been part of union contracts. AFSCME says Illinois owes $112 million to 24,000 state employees for pay increases withheld in fiscal years 2011 and 2012. ..... "This isn't just about paying state government's oldest unpaid bill, it's putting money into the Quad-Cities economy," AFSCME Council 31 Executive Director Henry Bayer said.
IL: Chicago’s Credit Rating Downgraded by Moody’s
REUTERS MARCH 4, 2014
Moody’s Investors Service downgraded Chicago’s credit rating, citing the city’s unfunded pension liabilities. The agency announced Tuesday it was lowering the rating on $8.3 billion in debt to Baa1, from A3, putting it only three notches above junk status.
IL: Rauner's $6 million sets record in Illinois governor race
March 04, 2014|By Rick Pearson | Clout Street
..... On Monday, state financial disclosure reports showed the political arm of the Illinois Education Association, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the Service Employees International Union each donated $300,000 to Illinois Freedom. The PAC has raised $3.3 million. SEIU has donated more than $842,000, while the IEA and AFSCME each have contributed $800,000. Rauner has decried the influence of “government union bosses” in Springfield as part of his campaign.
IL: Galhotra to challenge Harmon in 39th District primary
Wes Venteicher, Tribune 2:26 p.m. CST, March 4, 2014
A Democratic primary challenger is calling out state Sen. Don Harmon over his "yes" vote to overhaul the state's pension system. Kulmeet "Bob" Galhotra, a Chicago resident and Cook County public defender, said the overhaul unfairly burdens public workers with a problem legislators created by underfunding pension systems..... The pension overhaul was years in the making. Galhotra, as president of public defenders union AFSCME Local 3315, said he started following the situation in the early 2000s. Becoming frustrated with what he called "a lack of political will for a real solution," he decided to enter the 39th District race last fall, he said. He left the union presidency when he got a recent promotion, he said.
KS: State reports on first year of privatized Medicaid services
Kelsey Ryan The Wichita Eagle Tuesday, March 4, 2014, at 1:39 p.m.
More than $2.3 billion was spent by the state during the first year of KanCare, according to a new report from the state. KanCare – the state’s privatized Medicaid program that started last year – has three administrative managed care companies: United Healthcare, Amerigroup, and Sunflower State Health Plan, a subsidiary of Centene. The new report details information about expenditures, enrollment and services of the program, which Gov. Sam Brownback claims will save the state an estimated $1 billion over five years.
LA: No major retirement battles expected in Legislature
MARSHA SHULER theadvocate.com March 05, 2014
The battles of past legislative sessions associated with the Jindal administration’s failed push to overhaul the state employee pension system won’t be fought again this year when the session opens Monday. Gov. Bobby Jindal has abandoned attempts to make state employees work longer for reduced benefits and to move to a 401(k)-style pension system, which the state Supreme Court ruled had not been legally approved.
MI: Detroit retirees, unions wary of debt deal with banks
ROBERT SNELL AND CHAD LIVENGOOD THE DETROIT NEWS, MARCH 5, 2014
Retirees and union leaders vowed Tuesday to fight any plan by Detroit to use a new agreement with two banks to force them to take massive cuts in the city’s bankruptcy. .... Some creditors said Tuesday the deal is still too rich, considering Rhodes told the city it was “reasonably likely” to win if Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr sued to recoup money spent on a pension debt deal that dates to ex-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s administration. “The (banks) shouldn’t be getting anything. It’s a gift,” said Steven Kreisberg, director of collective bargaining for the city’s largest union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. “I don’t understand why Kevyn Orr is handing out gifts at the same time he is impoverishing retirees. It makes no sense.”
MI: Wayne County Airport Authority employee says she received racist e-mail comparing her to a cartoon character
Mar 03, 2014 11:25 PM Andrea Isom, Fox 2 News
Nyota Ellis says she was racially discriminated against The photo in the email, Francine from the TV show Arthur Email subject: Take a look .... Rob Davis, the chief negotiator for AFSCME for the Wayne Co. Airport local, says: "It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out this individual's intent. This was a very racist joke in which he sent to other airport officials and they never at any point in time reported it or reprimanded this individual, and for her to have to find this particular unfair depiction of African Americans is totally unfair and will not be tolerated by the AFSCME union."
MO: Border war truce finds support in the Missouri General Assembly
March 4 BY JASON HANCOCK The Star
Overwhelming majorities in the Missouri House and Senate have signed off on separate bills that would call a truce in the state’s economic border war with Kansas .... The legislation would prohibit incentives for border-jumping businesses in Douglas, Johnson, Miami or Wyandotte counties in Kansas and Cass, Clay, Jackson or Platte counties in Missouri. It would only go into effect, however, if the Kansas Legislature or governor enacted a similar measure in the next two years.
NC pension fund fees criticized by SEANC consultant
DAVID RANII newsobserver.com March 4, 2014
A consultant hired by the State Employees Association of North Carolina has accused the state Treasurer’s office of paying “over-the-top fees,” including “massive hidden fees,” to money managers who invest the state’s $86 billion pension fund. The Treasurer’s office, which has repeatedly clashed with SEANC, counters that the consultant’s conclusions are based on assumptions that “are not based on conventional industry standards.” ..... Chapel Hill investment firm Franklin Street Partners also has been drawn into the controversy, which erupted last week when Florida-based consultant Edward “Ted” Siedle wrote state Treasurer Janet Cowell complaining that the department hasn’t provided fee information SEANC requested.
NH: Tax cap survives first test
Conway Daily Sun: Tuesday, 04 March 2014
.... Mark Hounsell, of the school board, is supporting the budget. "It's a lot of money — $365,000 — but we get a lot from our teachers," he said and was "curious" why the budget committee was supporting the contract with the Conway Education Support Personnel 15-2 and with American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) 17-0 while the percentage of all three were roughly the same. "They're all fine hard-working people.
NY: Cuomo, de Blasio appear on different stages
Jordan Carleo Evangelist and Casey Seiler, Times Union, March 5, 2014
Just after noon Tuesday, New York's two most powerful Democrats were separated by three city blocks, the political desires of their respective audiences, and several dozen degrees Fahrenheit. As New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio stumped at the Washington Avenue Armory for his plan to fund universal prekindergarten education with a tax surcharge on the wealthy, Gov. Andrew Cuomo addressed a chilly but enthusiastic outdoor crowd of charter school supporters in East Capitol Park. .... Speaking earlier before a crowd of hundreds of public-sector workers represented by AFSCME, Silver was just as adamant that the tax remains an option.
OH: 911 operators may get pay, benefits boost
IGNAZIO MESSINA, BLADE 3/4/2014
The Collins administration agreed to give the city's 911 operators a raise and more sick time under a tentative agreement that needs council's approval to become effective. The terms of the agreement, obtained today by The Blade, grants a 2.5 percent wage increase and increases sick days by another 10 day annually for the 71 communications operators. Toledo City Council is scheduled to vote on the agreement with AFSCME Local 7 Communications Officers during a special meeting set for 1:59 p.m. today.
OH: Lakewood signs 3-year contracts with the last of its employee unions, granting 2 percent annual raises
Bruce Geiselman, Northeast Ohio Media Group March 04, 2014 at 6:39 PM
The city has completed negotiations with all of its employee bargaining units and has contracts in place running through 2016. City Council Monday night approved the final two contracts, both negotiated with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 1043. .... AFSCME employees will receive 2 percent wage increases in 2014, 2015 and 2016. In addition, the employees have agreed to take on more of the risk of increasing health care costs. After 2014, they will pay a greater share of their medical costs through increased premium contributions and increased deductibles.
OH No! Ohio Is Latest State to Usher in Voter Suppression
CLYDE WEISS | MARCH 04, 2014 AFSCME blog
Voting in America is everyone’s right. In Ohio, however, Gov. John Kasich recently made it harder for certain groups of people to cast their ballots. Governor Kasich eliminated the so-called “Golden Week,” a period starting 35 days before Election Day when Ohio residents were allowed to register to vote and, at the same time, cast early in-person absentee ballots. .... AFSCME, along with the Ohio American Civil Liberties Union, opposed the effort to end early voting.
OH: Kasich Mixes Half-Truths in Annual State of the State
JOHN NOONAN | MARCH 04, 2014 AFSCME blog
– Gov. John Kasich recently brought his State of the State address, and the entire state Legislature, press corps and a whole pack of half-truths to Medina, Ohio, where the annual speech was held. ..... “I'm really concerned about the drop in food stamps and telling people to go out and get jobs that are not there,” said Judy Smith, a caseworker in Trumbull County and a member of AFSCME Local 458. “
OR: Portland Solidarity Network: Things Are Heating Up at Fubonn
Libcom.org, March 4, 2014
Here is a brief look at the Portland Solidarity Network and their Don't Shop Fubonn campaign. .... With the support of organizers and members from AFSCME, UNITE HERE, the painter’s union, and the Portland IWW, several new stages of the campaign were announced. First, they would start regular Friday pickets called the Fridays of Fury at Fubonn, which would target one of their busiest customer rush periods.
PA: Clarke: We'll make sure Nutter can speak this time
Bob Warner and Troy Graham, Inquirer March 5, 2014
Philadelphia City Council President Darrell L. Clarke says he is taking steps to avoid the raucous union demonstration that prevented Mayor Nutter from delivering his budget speech in Council chambers last year. And one labor leader says Clarke's wishes matter to union members. .... tentative contract settlement with AFSCME District Council 47, representing 3,600 social and health care workers, librarians, computer technicians and other city employees, faces a ratification vote Wednesday night. But the administration is still at an apparent stalemate in its talks with the larger AFSCME unit representing 10,000 blue-collar city workers, District Council 33.
PA: Cumberland County commissioners split on support for measure that would end automatic union dues deductions
Roger Quigley | PennLive March 04, 2014 at 4:07 PM
The Cumberland County commissioners on Monday authorized a resolution supporting state legislation known as paycheck protection that would prohibit the collection of union dues by public employers. One of the three commissioners, Jim Hertzler, however, is adamantly opposed to the idea and presented his objections in detail, calling the idea "wrong-headed, ill advised and unnecessary." .... The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, he said, represents staff at both the Claremont Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Center and the Cumberland County Prison, but only nursing home staff would be barred from having automatic dues deductions.
RI: After Threats to Retirement Security, Rhode Islanders Pushed Back
PABLO ROS | AFSCME blog, MARCH 04, 2014
In 2011, the Rhode Island Retirement Security Act dealt a huge blow to state retirees, partly replacing their secure pensions with risky 401(k)-style plans, taking away their cost-of-living adjustment increases, and raising the minimum age for retirement. But public employees and retirees with AFSCME Council 94 didn’t take it lying down.
TN: Bill protects taxpayers from government contractors
Mar. 4, 2014 1:20 AM | Donald Cohen, In The Public Interest. Shreveport Times
All over the country, cash-strapped state and local governments have handed over control of critical public services and assets to corporations backed by Wall Street banks that promise to handle them better, faster and cheaper. Unfortunately for taxpayers, not only has outsourcing these services failed to keep this promise, but also it too often undermines transparency, accountability, shared prosperity and competition. ..... That’s why In the Public Interest is supporting proposals from state Rep. Mike Turner and state Sen. Thelma Harper that would give Tennessee taxpayers some of the strongest outsourcing protections in the nation.
WI: Assembly GOP ousts Bill Kramer from leadership over harassment allegations
MARY SPICUZZA | Wisconsin State Journal | March 4, 2014
Assembly Republicans on Tuesday ousted Bill Kramer as majority leader amid allegations that he sexually harassed one woman and inappropriately touched another. ... Kramer, a Waukesha Republican, has been accused of sexually harassing a woman and inappropriately touching another during a trip last week to Washington, D.C. One woman is a lobbyist; the other is a legislative staffer.