The Impact of State Income Taxes on Low Income Families in 2006

Source: Jason A. Levitis, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, March 27, 2007

Poor families in many states face substantial state income tax liability for the 2006 tax year. In 19 of the 42 states that levy income taxes, two-parent families of four with incomes below the federal poverty line are liable for income tax. In 15 of the 42 states, poor single-parent families of three pay income tax. And 29 of these states collect taxes from families of four with incomes just above the poverty line.

The Great Divide: When Kids Get Sick, Insurance Matters

Source: Families USA, Publication no. 07-102, February 2007

Extensive research has documented the positive effects that health insurance has on a child’s physical, developmental, social, and emotional health. Children who have health insurance are more likely to have a relationship with the same doctor over time, receive regular well-child checkups, and have their medical, dental, vision, and other health care needs met. But what happens when an uninsured child is seriously injured or develops a condition that requires hospitalization? Does health insurance make a difference in the child’s treatment and health outcomes? The answer is an emphatic “yes.”

Unwilling Volunteers: Tennesseans Forced Out of Health Care

Source: Families USA, Publication no. 07-103, April 2007

In 2005, Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen made the largest cuts in health coverage in our nation’s history. Thousands upon thousands of people were dropped from TennCare, the state’s innovative Medicaid program. Others who remained in the program had their benefits slashed. It was obvious that these drastic cuts would cause enormous harm. The governor, however, dismissed these concerns and moved forward with his plan.

Governor Bredesen not only touted his plan within Tennessee, but he also recommended that other states make similar changes. At the time he was promoting Medicaid cuts, many states were facing budget crunches and looking for ways to cut costs. The TennCare cuts became a potential forerunner of what could happen to health coverage programs across the country.

Against this backdrop, it is instructive to look beyond the numbers and see what has happened to the real people affected by the TennCare cuts—that is what this book is designed to do.

Washington State Bill Addresses Safety Concerns of Mental Health Workers

Source: Mental Health Weekly, Vol. 17 no. 17, April 30, 2007
(subscription required)

Legislation, which includes violence protection training, soon to become law.

House bill 1456, also known as the Marty Smith bill would provide backup for mental health professionals during home visits. The bill is names in honor of Smith, a County Designated Mental Health Professional (CDMHP) at Kitsap Mental Health, a private not-for-profit community mental health center in Bremerton, Wash., who was killed on Nov. 4, 2005 when he went to provide care for a client during a home visit.

The Governor’s Database

Source: Jake Bernstein, The Texas Observer, Vol. 99 no. 8, April 20, 2007

Texas is amassing an unprecedented amount of information on its citizens

Piece by piece, Gov. Rick Perry’s homeland security office is gathering massive amounts of information about Texas residents and merging it to create the most exhaustive centralized database in state history. Warehoused far from Texas on servers housed at a private company in Louisville, Kentucky, the Texas Data Exchange—TDEx to those in the loop—is designed to be an all-encompassing intelligence database. It is supposed to help catch criminals, ferret out terrorist cells, and allow disparate law enforcement agencies to share information. More than $3.6 million has been spent on the project so far, and it already has tens of millions of records. At least 7,000 users are presently allowed access to this information, and tens of thousands more are anticipated.

What is most striking, and disturbing, about the database is that it is not being run by the state’s highest law enforcement agency—the Texas Department of Public Safety. Instead, control of TDEx, and the power to decide who can use it, resides in the governor’s office.

National Center for Clinical Social Work Launched in Massachusetts

Source: Mental Health Weekly, Vol. 17 no. 17, April 30, 2007
(subscription required)

A national center for clinical social work was recently formed with the hope of representing the nation’s 200,000 clinical social workers, who constitute the largest mental health profession in the United States, said officials from the Salem, Mass., based Canter for Clinical Social Work, Inc. The Center is intended to be a unifying force amid the diversity and dynamism of the profession, said center officials.

GI Bill Fails Vets

Source: Terry J. Allen, In These Times, Vol. 31 no. 5, May 2007

Soldiers returning from Iraq aren’t receiving their education stipends until it’s too late

…Many veterans who applied under the 1984 Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) say they faced black-hole bureaucracy and college costs that far exceeded benefits….

…Because many colleges require payment upfront, and benefit checks from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) typically arrive months after the semester begins, veterans often have to pony up thousands of dollars in tuition, fees and living expenses to enter school…

Woe for the Working Classes

Source: Joe Connor, Challenge: The Magazine of Economic Affairs, Vol. 50 no. 2, March-April, 2007
(subscription required)

It is hard to find any evidence that tax increases reduce the work-effort of high-income earners, according to this economist. Meantime, traditional families in the lower-income half of our population have been faring badly for most of the past quarter century even without comparing them to the top fifth and especially to the top 5 percent who have done so well. The only good years the traditional family has had in the past twenty-five followed a tax increase in 1993. All those gains have been lost since the tax decrease in 2001.

San Francisco’s Paid Sick Leave Law: A Canary in the Coal Mine?

Source: Maureen Minehan, Employment Alert, Vol. 24 no. 5, March 1, 2007
(subscription required)

In November, voters in San Francisco approved proposition F, a bill that requires employers within San Francisco’s city and county limits to provide an hour of sick leave to full-time, part-time, and temporary employees for every 30 hours worked. While it may be tempting to dismiss the law as something only a liberal city such as San Francisco would pass, doing so would be a mistake. Similar laws have been introduced in state legislatures and a federal paid sick leave bill is pending before Congress.

One More Thing in Life That’s Certain: Fees

Source: Andrea Martinez, Fedgazette, Vol. 19 no. 2, March 2007

Government fees are on the rise at both state and local levels.

The theme of these rising expenses is that they are all government fees. While fees don’t have the scale or the visibility of taxes, their presence and overall cost have been on a steady incline. And if you’re a user of these services, you can no more avoid these price hikes than you could the tax man.