How electric cars could make America’s crumbling roads even worse

Source: Jay L. Zagorsky, The Conversation, February 25, 2019

…. To fix the potholes and crumbling roads, federal, state and local governments rely on fuel taxes, which raise more than US$80 billion a year and pay for around three-quarters of what the U.S. spends on building new roads and maintaining them. ….

….If sales continue at this breakneck pace, electric cars will become mainstream in no time. In addition, governments in Europe and China are actively steering consumers away from fossil fuels and toward their electric counterparts.

In other words, the time will come very soon when the U.S. and individual states will no longer be able to rely on fuel taxes to mend American roads…..

The Union That Roars

Source: Graham Vyse, Governing, February 2019

In an anti-union era, nurses are proving that organized labor can still be powerful. ….

…. NNU isn’t new to this fight. Breaking up the for-profit health-care system has been a defining mission of the union since its founding a decade ago. But now the group faces a new challenge. NNU is embarking on a revamped Medicare for All campaign not only at the federal level — where the prospects of success are bleak, at least in the short term — but in states across the country, especially those with Democratic governors, most notably California, Minnesota and New York. ….

Amid Strikes and Shortages, Governors Prioritize State Workers’ Plight

Source: Katherine Barrett and Richard Greene, Governing, February 25, 2019

Protesting teachers likely won’t be the only public employees who see pay raises and workplace improvements this year. ….

– In their State of the State addresses and executive orders this year, many governors are making public workforce issues a priority.
– They are particularly targeting teachers and corrections staff for pay raises.
– Several governors are focused on fighting sexual harassment and LGBT discrimination in state government…..

Denver City & County S.D. 1, CO: Terms of teacher strike settlement to have minimal credit impact on Denver Public Schools

Source: Denise Rappmund, Gera M. McGuire, Alexandra S. Parker, Moody’s, Issuer Comment, February 20, 2019
(subscription required)

The agreement, which ended a three-day strike, calls for a $23 million bump in teacher compensation, which equates to 2% of the district’s fiscal 2018 budget. Despite lackluster growth in state aid, the district’s credit profile continues to improve with in-migration, a highly educated workforce and a rapidly expanding tax base….

State and local government — US: Market volatility underscores risk of high pension investment return targets

Source: Thomas Aaron, Timothy Blake, Moody’s, Sector In-Depth, February 20, 2019
(subscription required)

Equity market losses in late 2018 will translate into larger than expected pension cost hikes in 2021 for many governments because of equity-heavy investment allocations within their pension systems’ assets. Despite the long-term investment focus of US public pension systems and favorable returns in the past two fiscal years, recent market losses highlight the uphill credit challenge facing governments that rely on high-return/high-risk pension assets to cover a large portion of their pension benefit promises.

Shrinking local autonomy: corporate coalitions and the subnational state

Source: Yunji Kim, Mildred E Warner, Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, Volume 11, Issue 3, October 2018
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Using focus groups and government finance data, we explore three areas of US state rescaling at the subnational level: revenue tools, expenditure responsibilities and policy authority. Expenditure responsibilities, especially social welfare, have been devolved to the subnational level, while local revenue tools and policy authority are preempted. This decoupling of responsibility and power is cracking the foundations of fiscal federalism. At the behest of corporate-legislative coalitions, subnational state governments are shrinking local capacity and authority to govern. This is not state shrinkage; it is a fundamental reshaping of the subnational state to the detriment of democracy and the social contract.

Alexander’s Loan-Repayment Overhaul

Source: Andrew Kreighbaum, Inside Higher Ed, February 19, 2019

Proposal to automatically deduct loan payments as a share of borrowers’ paychecks promises big improvements but raises questions over some new complications, too.

Student advocates have for years complained about the complex set of options borrowers must navigate to repay their student loans. Student loan borrowers are faced with a dizzying nine repayment plans based on their income, in addition to a standard 10-year loan-repayment plan.

There’s a growing consensus that Congress should reduce those options to one income-based option on top of the standard plan.

Senator Lamar Alexander, the chairman of the Senate education committee, would go one step further, calling for loan payments to be automatically deducted from borrowers’ paychecks. ….

…. While the proposal to reduce the myriad repayment options for borrowers already has broad support among higher ed interest groups, getting buy-in for making student loan payments work more like payroll taxes is more uncertain.

Jessica Thompson, director of policy and planning at the Institute for College Access and Success, said streamlining the repayment plans available to borrowers is “an overdue change.” But she said paycheck withholding for loan payments is “in reality a lot more complicated than it sounds.” ….

Dirty Data, Bad Predictions: How Civil Rights Violations Impact Police Data, Predictive Policing Systems, and Justice

Source: Rashida Richardson, Jason Schultz, Kate Crawford, New York University Law Review Online, Forthcoming, February 13, 2019

From the abstract:
Law enforcement agencies are increasingly using algorithmic predictive policing systems to forecast criminal activity and allocate police resources. Yet in numerous jurisdictions, these systems are built on data produced within the context of flawed, racially fraught and sometimes unlawful practices (‘dirty policing’). This can include systemic data manipulation, falsifying police reports, unlawful use of force, planted evidence, and unconstitutional searches. These policing practices shape the environment and the methodology by which data is created, which leads to inaccuracies, skews, and forms of systemic bias embedded in the data (‘dirty data’). Predictive policing systems informed by such data cannot escape the legacy of unlawful or biased policing practices that they are built on. Nor do claims by predictive policing vendors that these systems provide greater objectivity, transparency, or accountability hold up. While some systems offer the ability to see the algorithms used and even occasionally access to the data itself, there is no evidence to suggest that vendors independently or adequately assess the impact that unlawful and bias policing practices have on their systems, or otherwise assess how broader societal biases may affect their systems.

In our research, we examine the implications of using dirty data with predictive policing, and look at jurisdictions that (1) have utilized predictive policing systems and (2) have done so while under government commission investigations or federal court monitored settlements, consent decrees, or memoranda of agreement stemming from corrupt, racially biased, or otherwise illegal policing practices. In particular, we examine the link between unlawful and biased police practices and the data used to train or implement these systems across thirteen case studies. We highlight three of these: (1) Chicago, an example of where dirty data was ingested directly into the city’s predictive system; (2) New Orleans, an example where the extensive evidence of dirty policing practices suggests an extremely high risk that dirty data was or will be used in any predictive policing application, and (3) Maricopa County where despite extensive evidence of dirty policing practices, lack of transparency and public accountability surrounding predictive policing inhibits the public from assessing the risks of dirty data within such systems. The implications of these findings have widespread ramifications for predictive policing writ large. Deploying predictive policing systems in jurisdictions with extensive histories of unlawful police practices presents elevated risks that dirty data will lead to flawed, biased, and unlawful predictions which in turn risk perpetuating additional harm via feedback loops throughout the criminal justice system. Thus, for any jurisdiction where police have been found to engage in such practices, the use of predictive policing in any context must be treated with skepticism and mechanisms for the public to examine and reject such systems are imperative.

Whom Do Employers Want? The Role of Recent Employment and Unemployment Status and Age

Source: Henry S. Farber, Chris M. Herbst, Dan Silverman, Till von Wachter, Journal of Labor Economics, Ahead of Print, February 19, 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
We use a résumé audit study to investigate the role of employment and unemployment histories in callbacks to job applications. We find that applicants with 52 weeks of unemployment have a lower callback rate than those with shorter spells. There is no relationship, however, between spell length and callback among applicants with spells of 24 weeks or less. We also find that both younger and older applicants have a lower callback probability than prime-aged applicants. Finally, we find that applicants who are employed at the time of application have a lower callback rate than do unemployed applicants.

Who’s afraid of sunlight? Explaining opposition to transparency in economic development

Source: Nathan M. Jensen, Calvin Thrall, Washington Center for Equitable Growth, February 2019

From the abstract:
Why do some firms oppose transparency of government programs? In this paper we explore legal challenges to public records requests for deal-specific, company-specific participation in a state economic development incentive program. By examining applications for participation in a major state economic program, the Texas Enterprise Fund, we find that a company is more likely to challenge a formal public records request if it has renegotiated the terms of the award to reduce its job-creation obligations. We interpret this as companies challenging transparency when they have avoided being penalized for non-compliance by engaging in non-public renegotiations. These results provide evidence regarding those conditions that prompt firms to challenge transparency and illustrate some of the limitations of safeguards such as clawbacks (or incentive-recapture provisions) when such reforms aren’t coupled with robust transparency mechanisms.

Related:
Amazon HQ2: Texas experience shows why New Yorkers were right to be skeptical
Source: Nathan M. Jensen, Calvin Thrall, The Conversation, February 14, 2019

New York offered Amazon close to US$3 billion to build a “second” headquarters in Long Island City on the promise of 25,000 jobs.

Since the deal was joyfully announced in November, however, many local residents and some politicians in the area have been questioning whether it’s worth it, both in terms of the price tag and the impact on housing and traffic congestion. And on Feb. 14, Amazon backed out of the deal, citing political opposition to its plans.

The research supports those who question the wisdom of cities and states incentivizing economic development. Studies suggest the jobs and economic gains are usually not worth the tax breaks since the majority of companies would have come even without incentives.

And that’s when the companies try to live up to the promises they made. They don’t always do so, with the latest example being Foxconn’s announcement that it is reconsidering plans to build a factory in Wisconsin – less than a year after agreeing to create up to 13,000 high-tech jobs in exchange for more than $4.5 billion in incentives.

But how often do companies that agree to build factories and create jobs in exchange for economic incentives back away from their promises? And when they do, do taxpayers ever learn about it?

To shine light on these questions, we conducted a study of a Texas economic development program. Taxpayers in any American city considering luring a company with cash should take heed…..
Opinion: Amazon, New York and the End of Corporate Welfare
Source: Mene Ukueberuwa, Wall Street Journal, February 18, 2019
(subscription required)

Special tax breaks do little to spur the economy. Now they’re becoming politically unpopular too

Are New Yorkers better off after Amazon’s decision Thursday to cancel its planned headquarters in the Queens neighborhood of Long Island City? It’s a complicated question, weighing the benefits of new high-earning residents against the added strain on local services. Yet the pullout could lead to a decisive triumph for taxpayers across the nation, as city and state officials start to reckon with the popular backlash against corporate tax incentives…..

Opinion: New York Did Us All a Favor by Standing Up to Amazon
Source: David Leonhardt, New York Times, February 17, 2019

Yes, Amazon’s departure will modestly hurt the city’s economy. But it’s also a victory against bad economic policy.

New York Labor Didn’t Shrink from Confronting Amazon
Source: Steven Greenhouse, American Prospect, February 18, 2019

But unions were sharply divided about how to deal with the tech giant.