Author Archives: afscme

Government employment: Job insecurity

Source: Ronald A. Wirtz, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, Fedgazette, January 24, 2013

Despite the imprimatur of job security, the ax has (belatedly) fallen on public sector employment, especially at the local level… Government employment has seen significant job losses since 2010 across all levels of government and most district states. While private employment dropped dramatically with the recession, public sector employment actually rose, thanks to the federal stimulus. A slow economic recovery and the end of stimulus funding have led to hard budget decisions, particularly among local governments. Local governments in Minnesota and Wisconsin have seen the largest cuts. But rather than a recent phenomenon, local government employment in these states has fluctuated for the past decade, thanks to periodic state budget deficits and subsequently less state aid to local governments. …

State-Level Policies Threaten to Further Weaken Unions

Source: David Madland and Nick Bunker, Center for American Progress, January 23, 2013

…State-level policy has recently become increasingly important to the fate of unions. States such as Indiana and Michigan passed “right-to-work” laws in 2012 that undermine the strength of unions by requiring them to provide services for which they are not compensated, while Wisconsin passed a law in 2011 that repealed collective bargaining rights for most of the state’s public-sector workers. These policy choices, as well as similar ones made in the past, can significantly impact unionization rates, and they help explain the wide variation in unionization among states. Using the Bureau of Labor Statistics data released today, along with data from an online database managed by economists Barry T. Hirsch and David A. Macpherson, we can see how trends in unionization have differed across states in recent years….

Mileage-Based User Fees for Transportation Funding: A Primer for State and Local Decisionmakers

Source: Paul Sorensen, Liisa Ecola, Martin Wachs, RAND Corporation, Document Number: TL-104, 2012

From the abstract:
This primer presents some promising and innovative mileage fee system designs and transition strategies. For states or localities that are just beginning to consider the idea of mileage fees, awareness of these strategies can help determine whether shifting from fuel taxes to mileage fees merits further consideration. For jurisdictions already engaged in detailed assessments of mileage fees, these concepts can help refine system design — with the ultimate aim of reducing costs and building public support.

Employer Access to Social Media Usernames and Passwords: 2012 Legislation, Year-end summary

Source: National Conference of State Legislatures, January 17, 2013

Increasing numbers of Americans use social media, both on and off the job. Recently, some employers have asked employees to turn over their username or passwords for their personal accounts. Some employers argue that access to personal accounts is needed to protect proprietary information or trade secrets and to prevent the employer from being exposed to legal liabilities. But others consider requiring access to personal accounts an invasion of employee privacy. State legislators introduced legislation beginning in 2012 to prevent employers from requesting passwords to personal Internet accounts—including email, banking and social networking sites—in order to get or keep a job. Some states have similar legislation protect students in public colleges and universities from having to grant access to their social networking accounts. …

Why We Should Keep the Social Security Retirement Age

Source: Stephen H. Gorin, Health Social Work, Vol 37 no. 2, May 2012
(subscription required)

From the extract:
In recent years, politicians and analysts from both political parties, pointing to projected increases in life expectancy, have advocated raising social security’s normal, or full retirement (FRA), retirement age. The FRA refers to the age of eligibility for full benefits. Under the original Social Security Act, the FRA was set at age 65, “based simply on what seemed appropriate and affordable at the time” (Kingson & Altman, 2011, p. 2). In 1983, in the face of concern about the long-term solvency of the program, Congress and then-President Ronald Reagan amended the act to gradually increase the FRA to 67 for individuals born after 1937. This amendment will be fully implemented in 2022. ..

Trends in Corporate Income Taxes

Source: Jennifer Burnett, Council of State Governments, Knowledge Center, November 13, 2012

State fiscal conditions continued to improve in 2012, although many state budgets have not recovered to prerecession levels. Revenues from corporate income taxes remain down nearly 25 percent over 2008 levels when adjusted for inflation. Between 2008 and 2012, three states—Illinois, Oregon and West Virginia—raised corporate income tax rates, while five states— Kentucky, New York, North Dakota, Massachusetts and Maryland—lowered rates. During this same time period, states had to rely less on corporate income taxes in their general fund budgets; revenue from those taxes are estimated to make up about 6.4 percent of general fund revenue in 2012, lower than the 7.6 percent they comprised in 2008….
See also:
Combined Trends in Corporate Income Taxes

Earnings of the Top 1.0 Percent Rebound Strongly in the Recovery

Source: Lawrence Mishel and Nicholas Finio, Economic Policy Institute, Issue Brief #347, January 23, 2013

From the summary:
There has been some discussion over the last year or so that the growth of income inequality—especially the trends favoring the top 1.0 percent—had been reversed in the recent downturn and, therefore, policymakers need not focus on the overall increase in income inequality since the late 1970s.

Newly available data on the labor earnings of the very highest earners are the first indicators available for 2011 enabling a determination as to whether this is indeed the case. These data allow an assessment of how wages grew for the various wage segments of the workforce, including the top 1.0 percent, during the recent downturn and the recovery through 2011. The data also allow us to update our analysis in The State of Working America, 12th Edition (Mishel et al. 2012) of wage growth since 1947—and especially since 1979, when wage inequality began to rise. The data cover annual earnings because they are drawn from the wage records in the Social Security system. Since these data are for annual wages and salaries, the trends identified reflect both changes in hourly wages and changes in annual hours worked (based on changes in weekly hours and weeks worked per year). …

Public-Sector Union Numbers, 2012

Source: John Schmitt, Center for Economic and Policy Research, January 23, 2013

… The number of public-sector union members fell by 234,000 last year. This is partly the product of a decline in employment in the sector, which has seen employment fall every year since 2009. But, the share of public-sector workers in unions also fell, from 37.0 percent in 2011 to 35.9 percent in 2012. This sizeable drop may well reflect the organized attacks against public-sector workers in states such as Wisconsin, where public-sector union membership dropped by about 48,000 workers. …

Grapevine, Fiscal Year 2012-13

Source: Center for the Study of Education Policy at Illinois State University and the State Higher Education Executive Officers, January 2013

Since 1960, Grapevine has published annual compilations of data on state tax support for higher education, including general fund appropriations for universities, colleges, community colleges, and state higher education agencies. Each year’s Grapevine survey has asked states for tax appropriations data for the new fiscal year and for revisions (if any) to data reported in previous years.

As of fiscal year 2010, Grapevine tables–including both tax and non-tax support–have been produced by Illinois State University’s Center for the Study of Education Policy in cooperation with the State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO). The Grapevine survey has been consolidated with the annual survey used by SHEEO in its State Higher Education Finance (SHEF) project. This consolidated questionnaire asks for data that are compiled in a new State Support for Higher Education database. This database, in turn, is used to produce both the annual Grapevine tables, which provide a first look at state appropriations for the new fiscal year, and the annual SHEF report, which offers a more complete examination of trends in total state support for higher education, factoring in inflation and enrollment. The SHEF report for FY2012 will be released shortly by SHEEO.

The results of the Grapevine survey for fiscal year 2012-13 (FY13), including tax and nontax monies, are compiled in the national tables available on this website. The FY13 data summarized in these tables represent initial allocations and estimates reported by the states from September 2012 through January 14, 2013 and are subject to change. Andy Carlson of the SHEEO staff led the data collection effort. Further revisions may be made as states make corrections or adjust their budgets in the face of ongoing revenue shortfalls. In addition, it is important to note that unlike Grapevine reports issued prior to fiscal year 2009-10, the data from the survey for FY13 include only state totals. The new, consolidated questionnaire does not ask states to provide appropriations figures for individual colleges and universities. (Further information on the Grapevine data on the “Method” page of this web site.)

2013 Keating Report on government budgets and spending – Will bruising budget battles scar the economy?

Source: Michael Keating, GovPro, January 22, 2013

The U.S. economy and government budgets appear to be getting a little stronger as 2013 gets underway. Yes, state budgets are improving, with as many as 45 states and the District of Columbia expecting to get bigger tax takes in fiscal-year (FY) 2013 compared to FY 2012.

Even so, there is concern that future budget brawls in Congress may stall the recovering U.S. economy.

The 2013 Keating Report summarizes survey results that show how city finance officers and other government officials coped with a sluggish economy in 2012, and how Kent, Wash., is hiking fees and taking other revenue-boosting steps in 2013. Officials from the Council of State Governments, the National Council for Public-Private Partnerships and other organizations weigh in on 2013 government budgets, spending, construction, public-private partnerships and related topics.
Federal fiscal trends
State finances
Local government fiscal realities
Public works and transportation construction
Public-private partnerships
Economy and government purchases