Author Archives: afscme

2019 State Business Tax Climate Index

Source: Jared Walczak, Scott Drenkard, Joseph Bishop-Henchman, Tax Foundation, September 26, 2018

The Tax Foundation’s State Business Tax Climate Index enables business leaders, government policymakers, and taxpayers to gauge how their states’ tax systems compare. While there are many ways to show how much is collected in taxes by state governments, the Index is designed to show how well states structure their tax systems and provides a road map for improvement…..

Beige Book: Summary of Commentary on Current Economic Conditions by Federal Reserve District

Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, December 5, 2018

Commonly known as the Beige Book, this report is published eight times per year. Each Federal Reserve Bank gathers anecdotal information on current economic conditions in its District through reports from Bank and Branch directors and interviews with key business contacts, economists, market experts, and other sources. The Beige Book summarizes this information by District and sector. An overall summary of the twelve district reports is prepared by a designated Federal Reserve Bank on a rotating basis.

Overall Economic Activity
Most of the twelve Federal Reserve Districts reported that their economies expanded at a modest or moderate pace from mid-October through late November, though both Dallas and Philadelphia noted slower growth compared with the prior Beige Book period. St. Louis and Kansas City noted just slight growth. On balance, consumer spending held steady – District reports on growth of nonauto retail sales appeared somewhat weaker while auto sales tended to improve, particularly for used cars. Tourism reports varied but generally kept pace with the economy. Tariffs remained a concern for manufacturers, but a majority of Districts continued to report moderate growth in the sector. All Districts reported growth in nonfinancial services – ranging from slight to strong. New home construction and existing home sales tended to decline or hold steady, while construction and leasing of nonresidential structures tended to rise or remain flat. Overall, lending volumes grew modestly, although a few Districts noted some slowing. Agricultural conditions and farm incomes were mixed; some Districts noted impacts from excessive rainfall and from tariffs, which have constrained demand. Most energy sectors saw little change or modest growth. Most Districts reported that firms remained positive; however, optimism has waned in some as contacts cited increased uncertainty from impacts of tariffs, rising interest rates, and labor market constraints…..

Workplace Monitoring: Where Do Employers Draw The Line?

Source:
Gina LeBlanc, McGuireWoods LLP, December 12, 2018

Recent developments in privacy law and a rise in class action lawsuits related to data collection offer a cautionary tale about understanding legal and ethical boundaries of monitoring “on-the-clock” employee conduct. With a hodgepodge of federal, state, and local legislation governing employee privacy rights, employers are often left to navigate a complicated legal landscape while balancing the practical need to understand how employees are using company information and equipment. Employers, for example, have a legitimate interest in protecting company trade secrets, detecting unlawful transmission of unlicensed material, and improving work productivity. Employees, on the other hand, may have a reasonable expectation of privacy in certain contexts while at work.

This quandary begs the question, where do employers draw the line?

Municipal Brief: New York City

Source: S&P Global Ratings, November 19, 2018
(subscription required)

The City of New York’s recently released 2018 comprehensive annual financial report confirms expected year-end results with those identified in the 2019 adopted budget. The audit presents a story of continued economic strength supporting strong revenue growth, outpacing higher-than-inflation expense growth, thereby supporting a slow-but-steady increase in the city’s reserves.

Rising U.S. States’ OPEB Liabilities Signal Higher Costs Ahead

Source: S&P Global Ratings, November 28, 2018
(subscription required)

Other postemployment benefit (OPEB) liabilities, which consist primarily of retiree health care plans, are a growing concern for certain states’ credit quality and require attention to control higher future costs. Total unfunded state OPEB liabilities have increased significantly for the third year in a row, according to S&P Global Ratings’ latest survey of U.S. states.

Pay Inequity in U.S. Is Widening

Source: Dana Wilkie, HR Magazine, November/December 2018

In many cases, wages for many low- and middle-income employees have not even kept pace with inflation.
Four decades ago, in 1979, the typical low-income worker—perhaps a waitress or a cashier—earned about $9.42 an hour when adjusted to today’s dollars. In 2016, a person in that same job earned about $9.33 an hour—roughly 1 percent less than what his or her counterpart was making 40 years ago.

The economy in 2018 has been strong, unemployment is at an all-time low, many businesses are turning healthy profits and the financial markets have surged. Yet that has not translated into robust wage growth for many U.S. workers, even though basic economic theory holds that this should have happened. Instead, pay for many low- and middle-income employees has remained relatively flat, in some cases not even keeping pace with inflation.

Theories abound as to why:
– Automation and global outsourcing have reduced the demand for lower-skilled workers and the pressure to increase their pay.
– A four-year college degree no longer promises the financial bargaining power in the labor market that it once did.
– The decline in labor unions has made it more difficult for low-wage employees to negotiate higher pay.
– The minimum wage doesn’t have the buying power it had decades ago.
– Company leaders, boards and shareholders grew gun-shy following the Great Recession and prefer to keep labor costs low in case of another economic downturn…..

Does Hiring For ‘Culture Fit’ Perpetuate Bias? Two HR experts debate the issue.

Source: Mel Hennigan and Lindsay Evans, SHRM, HR Today, October 31, 2018

YES: Hiring bias is hiding beneath the cloak of company culture.
When successful tech companies popularized corporate culture as an asset to be fostered and shaped about 15 years ago, it didn’t take long for “culture fit” to become the new jargon used for hiring decisions that are based on personality traits. Considering culture fit as part of the overall package is a good thing for companies that have taken the time to carefully define and weigh the cultural components of the hiring decision. ….

NO: Assessing candidates for culture fit helps ensure their success.
Human capital has a direct impact on an organization’s financial performance, research shows. The people within an organization can provide a competitive advantage—or a disadvantage. Therefore, making the right hiring decisions is critical…..

Brass Parachutes: Defense Contractors’ Capture of Pentagon Officials Through the Revolving Door

Source: Mandy Smithberger, Project On Government Oversight, 2018

A POGO investigation found that from 2008 to the present over 380 high-ranking Department of Defense officials and military officers became lobbyists, board members, executives, or consultants for defense contractors within two years of leaving the Department.

Major Findings
– There were 645 instances of the top 20 defense contractors in fiscal year 2016 hiring former senior government officials, military officers, Members of Congress, and senior legislative staff as lobbyists, board members, or senior executives in 2018 (see chart below). Since some lobbyists work for multiple defense contractors, there are more instances than officials.
– Of those instances, nearly 90 percent became registered lobbyists, where the operational skill is influence-peddling.
– At least 380 high-ranking Department of Defense officials and military officers shifted into the private sector to become lobbyists, board members, executives, or consultants for defense contractors.
– Of the Department of Defense officials POGO tracked through the revolving door, a quarter of them (95) went to work at the Department of Defense’s top 5 contractors (Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, General Dynamics, and Northrop Grumman).
– Military officers going through the revolving door included 25 Generals, 9 Admirals, 43 Lieutenant Generals, and 23 Vice Admirals.

Related:
Pentagon Revolving Door Database

Key Facts about the Uninsured Population

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation, December 7, 2018

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) led to historic gains in health insurance coverage by extending Medicaid coverage to many low-income individuals and providing Marketplace subsidies for individuals below 400% of poverty. The number of uninsured nonelderly Americans decreased from over 44 million in 2013 (the year before the major coverage provisions went into effect) to just below 27 million in 2016. However, in 2017, the number of uninsured people increased by nearly 700,000 people, the first increase since implementation of the ACA. Ongoing efforts to alter the ACA or to make receipt of Medicaid contingent on work may further erode coverage gains seen under the ACA. This fact sheet describes how coverage has changed in recent years, examines the characteristics of the uninsured population, and summarizes the access and financial implications of not having coverage.

Correctional Control 2018: Incarceration and supervision by state

Source: Alexi Jones, Prison Policy Initiative, December 2018

Understanding correctional control beyond incarceration gives us a more accurate and complete picture of punishment in the United States, showing the expansive reach of our criminal justice system. This is especially true at the state level, as some of the states that are the least likely to send someone to prison are the most likely to put them under community supervision. Given that most criminal justice reform will need to happen at the state and local levels, it is crucial for states to assess not only their incarceration rates, but whether their “alternatives” to incarceration are working as intended.

For this report, we compiled data on each state’s various systems of correctional control to help advocates and policymakers prioritize targets for reform. This report includes data on federal prisons, state prisons, local jails, juvenile confinement, involuntary commitment, Indian Country jails, parole, and probation. We make the data accessible in one nationwide chart and 100 state-specific pie charts. In this update to our original 2016 report, we pay particular attention to the harms of probation and parole, and discuss how these systems might be reworked into more meaningful alternatives to incarceration.