Author Archives: afscme

To Post or Not to Post: Employee Rights and Social Media

Source: Willow S. Jacobson and, Shannon Howle Tufts, Review of Public Personnel Administration, Vol. 33 no. 1, March 2013
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Employing an interdisciplinary approach this research examines the issue of employee rights in relation to social media policies both on and off the job. The proliferation of the use and forms of social media in the past 5 years has been extensive and governments are seeking to capture its power as a communication and engagement resource. Meanwhile, governments struggle to create appropriate, legal, and meaningful policies related to employee usage and behavior. Social media policies are analyzed with attention to the rights of employees. Content analysis of state government policies provide an overview of the current state of practice and highlights issues of public employee rights. The article includes a discussion of key issues of employee rights, recommendations for practice, and identifies future research needs.

Time Use on Caregiving Activities: Comparing Federal Government and Private Sector Workers

Source: Sharon H. Mastracci, Review of Public Personnel Administration, Vol. 33 no. 1, March 2013
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Working mothers in federal service spend about 20 min per day less on caregiving activities, compared to their counterparts in the private sector. This result holds regardless of the type of job they hold, their educational attainment, marital status, the number and ages of their children, or the employment status of their spouse. This is an important result to federal agency recruitment, which targets a similar labor pool as does the private sector. It is also important to the retention of human capital in federal government, which has sought to establish a reputation as a model employer through the development and implementation of family-friendly workplace programs and a culture that supports overall work–life balance. However, mothers in federal service spend more time at work compared to their counterparts in the private sector, which prompts one to wonder whether less caregiving time and more work time is true balance.

The 535 Report: A Pathway to Fundamental Tax Reform

Source: Dorothy A. Brown, Pepperdine Law Review, Vol. 40 No. 5, 2013

From the abstract:
This Essay argues that current tax policies that include special tax rates, loopholes and deductions disadvantage most Americans in favor of income received by a select few – especially members of Congress. The majority of taxpayers of color as well as white taxpayers are not eligible for the loopholes and special tax breaks that currently exist in our tax laws. Tax reform that eliminates special deals as a means to lowering tax rates for all is the best way forward towards a fairer and simpler tax system. Such reform however is unlikely to occur in the absence of a “focusing event” that will galvanize the American public to demand change. My proposal for The 535 Report could be that focusing event.

ALEC Tax and Budget Proposals Would Slash Public Services and Jeopardize Economic Growth

Source: Erica Williams and Nicholas Johnson, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, February 12, 2013

From the summary:
Governors and legislatures in numerous states are considering, or have recently enacted, sweeping tax and budget proposals that follow recommendations of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), with potentially adverse consequences for middle- and lower-income families, individuals, and communities across the country.

These policies would cut taxes deeply for wealthy individuals, investors, and corporations; shift tax burdens substantially from well-to-do to middle- and low-income households; and impose strict constitutional or legal limits on revenues or spending that would severely limit states’ ability to provide adequate funds for education, health care, and other priorities, and impair state economic growth.

The specific policies include deep cuts in income taxes, particularly for affluent households and corporations; a repeal of state income and estate taxes; a shift in state revenues from graduated-rate income taxes to sales taxes that are much higher than most states have today; the end of various state-based tax credits for low-income working families; a Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) that would impose rigid constitutional limits on state revenues and spending; requirements that state legislatures garner two-thirds or other “super-majority” votes to raise any taxes or fees; and other mechanisms that would reduce the funds available to finance key public services.

Are Highways Crumbling? State and U.S. Highway Performance Trends, 1989–2008

Source: David T. Hartgen, M. Gregory Fields and Elizabeth San José, Reason Foundation, 2012

From the press release:
…A new Reason Foundation report examining 20 years of state highway data finds the condition of America’s state-controlled roads has improved in seven key areas including deficient bridges and pavement condition.

All 50 states lowered their highway fatality rates from 1989 to 2008 and 40 states reduced their percentages of deficient bridges during that time. Nationwide, the number of deficient bridges in the country fell from 37.8 percent of all bridges in 1989 to 23.7 percent in 2008.

The Reason Foundation study tracks spending per mile on state-owned roads and measures road performance in seven categories: miles of urban Interstate highways in poor pavement condition, miles of rural Interstates in poor condition, congestion on urban Interstates, deficient bridges, highway fatalities, rural primary roads in poor condition and the number of rural primary roads flagged as too narrow. …

Men in Nursing Occupations

Source: Liana Christin Landivar, United States Census Bureau, American Community Survey Highlight Report, Issued February 2013

From the press release:
The nursing profession remains overwhelmingly female, but the representation of men has increased as the demand for nurses has grown over the last several decades, according to a U.S. Census Bureau study released today.

The new study shows the proportion of male registered nurses has more than tripled since 1970, from 2.7 percent to 9.6 percent, and the proportion of male licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses has more than doubled from 3.9 percent to 8.1 percent.

Public Pension Plan Investment Return Assumptions

Source: National Association of State Retirement Administrators, NASRA Issue Brief, Updated January 2013

As of the third quarter of 2012, state and local government retirement systems held assets of approximately $3 trillion. These assets are invested to defray the cost of benefits within an acceptable level of risk. The investment return on these assets matters because over time, investment earnings account for a majority of public pension fund revenues. A shortfall in expected investment earnings must be made up by higher contributions or reduced benefits.

Funding a pension benefit requires the use of projections, known as actuarial assumptions, about future events. Actuarial assumptions fall into one of two broad categories: demographic and economic. Demographic assumptions are those pertaining to a pension plan’s membership, such as changes in the number of working and retired plan participants; when participants will retire, and how long they’ll live after they retire. Economic assumptions pertain to such factors as the rate of wage growth and the investment return on the fund’s assets.

As with other actuarial assumptions, projecting public pension fund investment returns requires a focus on the long-term. This brief discusses how investment return assumptions are established and evaluated and compares these assumptions with public funds’ actual investment experience.

Best Practice: Guidelines for Funding Defined Benefit Pensions (2013) (CORBA)

Source: Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA), 2013

Background. Governments that offer defined benefit pensions to their employees should fund the cost of those benefits in an equitable and sustainable manner. An actuarial valuation provides an employer with crucial information on the amount that needs to be contributed each period to fund the long-term cost of benefits promised to plan participants.  Generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) have required that this actuarially determined amount, known as the actuarially required contribution (ARC), be calculated within standardized parameters and disclosed as part of an employer’s annual financial report.

Recently, the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) changed its approach with regard to pension reporting and moved from one that served both the purposes of accounting/financial reporting and funding to one related solely to accounting/financial reporting.   As a result, GAAP will no longer require that employers calculate and disclose an ARC in their financial reports starting with fiscal years ending on or after June 30, 2014….

Oregon Employer-Provided Benefits and the Impacts of Rising Costs

Source: WorkSource Oregon, February 2013

The 2012 Oregon Benefits Survey asked private employers from all industries, class sizes, and regions of the state about the benefits offered to their management employees, and full-time and part-time non-management employees, in June 2012. Employers’ responses provided several key findings about overall offerings:
• Three-quarters (75%) of employers offered one or more health, retirement, leave, pay, fringe, or other insurance benefit to employees.
• More than one-half (57%) of Oregon employers offered health benefits.
• Slightly less than one-half (43%) of firms offered retirement benefits to employees.
• Almost three-quarters (74%) of eligible employees enrolled for health care benefits, while 61 percent of eligible employees enrolled for retirement benefits…

…The Oregon Employment Department surveyed nearly 12,000 private employers in all industries, class sizes, and regions of the state between June and August 2012. Almost 4,300 employers responded to the survey. They provided detailed information about the health, retirement, insurance, pay, leave, and fringe benefits offered to part-time, full-time, and management employees in June 2012 (see Appendix 2 for full-time employment definition).

The findings from the 2012 Oregon Benefits Survey provide an extensive picture of many benefits offered by employers, along with the extent and impacts of changing benefit costs on businesses. This report also serves as an update to the Employment Department’s 2005 Oregon Benefits Survey, and fills an unmet need for data. Other publicly published benefit and employer cost statistics are available for the U.S., but not for each individual state….