Financing Transportation in the 21st Century – An Intergovernmental Perspective

Source: Intergovernmental Forum on Transportation Finance, January 2008

From the press release:
WASHINGTON, March 12 —
The gap between America’s surface transportation needs and the financial resources required to bridge them is large, immediate and long-term, according to a report released by state and local government groups. All levels of government must work together to set system-performance goals and provide the financial means to meet those goals, the report concluded.

Burgeoning Prison Populations Strain State Budgets

Source: Liana Fox, Economic Policy Institute, Snapshot, March 12, 2008

A recent study released by the Pew Center on the States examines the rapid growth of the U.S. prison population, which has tripled over the past 20 years. The United States now holds the distinction of imprisoning more of its own citizens, both in total number and share of the adult population, than any other country in the world. In 2007, the United States had a record-breaking one out of every 100 adults in prison. Policy changes in sentencing and parole revocation, rather than increases in crime, have largely driven the increase in incarceration rates.

A Progress Report On State Health Access Reform

Source: John E. McDonough, Michael Miller and Christine Barber, Health Affairs, Web Exclusive, Vol. 27 no. 2, 2008
(subscription required)

Enactment of ambitious health reform laws in Massachusetts and Vermont in 2006 helped instigate a wave of state legislative activities to expand coverage to uninsured people. We identify thirty-nine states that have enacted laws in at least one access category since 2006. At least thirteen states have begun processes to enact comprehensive reforms to cover at least half of their uninsured residents. Key activities involve coverage expansions for uninsured children and for uninsured adults; regulatory changes in small-group and individual insurance markets; and individual and employer mandates. The future extent and durability of this wave are uncertain.

Summary of Final TANF Rules: Some Improvements Around the Margins

Source: Liz Schott, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, February 20, 2008

From the summary:
Overall, the new Final Rule contains some improvements that provide states with some additional flexibility with respect to the activities that can count toward the work participation rate and how states must count and document hours of participation. However, the changes are fundamentally “around the edges” and do not address some of the core concerns that states and others had raised with respect to the Interim Final Rule. The marginal improvements include:

• The Final Rule expanded the circumstances under which a person with a severe disability (applying for or receiving SSI or Social Security Disability Insurance) or a person caring for a disabled family member could be excluded from the work participation rate calculation;

• The Final Rule includes a number of changes that will make it easier for states to get credit toward the work rates when an individual participates in post-secondary education; and

• The Final Rule includes greater flexibility in counting hours of participation with respect to excused absences and participation in job search or job readiness activities.

Moreover, the new Final Rule contains one significant and new restriction on how states can spend their “maintenance of effort” funds — the state funds they must spend to qualify for federal TANF funds. In our view, this new restriction is contrary to the clear language of the statute and to Congressional intent.

This paper summarizes the key concerns that we and other commenters raised about the Interim Final Rules and describes the extent to which HHS made changes in response to these concerns in the Final Rule. The report also highlights the changed regulatory provisions.

Public Health Preparedness: Mobilizing State by State

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Coordinating Office for Terrorism Preparedness and Emergency Response (COTPER), February 2008

From the summary:
CDC’s Coordinating Office for Terrorism Preparedness and Emergency Response (COTPER) has released its inaugural report on public health emergency preparedness. The report, Public Health Preparedness: Mobilizing State by State, highlights the progress that has been made in state and local preparedness and response, identifies preparedness challenges facing public health departments, and outlines CDC’s efforts to address those challenges. Designed to increase accountability regarding the country’s investment in preparedness activities, the report presents national data as well as state-specific snapshots for all 50 states and four directly funded localities: Chicago; Los Angeles County; New York City; and Washington, DC.
Key Findings

A Major Setback for Pay Equality: The Supreme Court’s Decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company

Source: Norma M. Riccucci, Review of Public Personnel Administration, Vol. 28, no. 1, March 2008
(subscription required)

Pay inequities based on gender continue to pervade the public and private sector landscapes. Although Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as amended and the Equal Pay Act of 1963 proscribe unequal pay for equal work, the newly formed U.S. Supreme Court has issued a ruling in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company (2007) that ignores Court precedents as well as provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1991, making it more difficult for employees to file suit for pay inequities. Ultimately, the problem of pay disparities in the workplace can only worsen.
See also:
S. 1843 Fair Pay Restoration Act

Global Gender Pay Gap

Source: Catherine Chubb, Simone Melis, Louisa Potter, Raymond Storry, International Trade Union Confederation, February 2008

From the press release:
Brussels, 6 March 2008: On the eve of International Women’s Day, a new ITUC report, the Global Gender Pay Gap reveals that on average, women are paid 16% less than their male counterparts. The report includes detailed analysis of statistics from official sources in 63 countries around the world. Data from an online salary survey covering more than 400,000 workers in 12 countries is also included in the new study.

How Many Struggle to Get by In Retirement?

Source: Dan Murphy, Sheila R. Zedlewski, Barbara Butrica, Urban Institute, March 7, 2008

From the abstract:
This paper uses data from the 2004 Health and Retirement Study to demonstrate how the poverty rate of adults 65 and older changes using alternative resource and threshold measures. Results show that alternative poverty measures that account for health spending produce higher poverty rates than the official measure, even those that include the value of housing and financial assets. Poverty remains concentrated among singles (disproportionately women), blacks and Hispanics, and adults 85 and older regardless of how it is measured because these populations have relatively little housing equity or financial assets.

A Recessionary Job Market

Source: Jared Bernstein with research assistance from James Lin, Economic Policy Institute, Jobs Picture, March 7, 2008

In what is the most recessionary jobs report since the last official downturn in 2001, payrolls fell 63,000 last month and were down 101,000 in the private sector, according to today’s report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Unemployment actually ticked down slightly, from 4.9% to 4.8%, but this was wholly due to labor force withdrawal. Employment in the more volatile survey of households–the one from which the unemployment rate is drawn–fell over 250,000.

Americans Worried About Their Standard of Living
Source: Dennis Jacobe, Gallup, February 22, 2008