Some States Spend Billions on Economic Tax Incentives for Little or No Return

Source: Eric Pianin, Fiscal Times, May 7, 2017
 
By one estimate, state and local governments spend at least $45 billion a year on tax breaks and other incentives to lure or keep job-producing businesses and plants in their jurisdictions. … But while these tax credits, exemptions, and property tax abatements are popular tools to create jobs, attract new businesses and strengthen the local economy, they also constitute high-risk investments that can squander billions in tax dollars without always paying off.  A new study by the Pew Charitable Trusts offers provides a wide-ranging look at the way many state officials handle these costly programs in recent years.  While the ultimate success of these incentives often hinges on good planning by state officials and follow-up measurements of the impact and efficacy of the programs, Pew researchers found that many states have fallen well short of what was needed.  Indeed, the study found that 23 states either lack a smart evaluation policy or have had a policy in place for five or more years that has not proven effective in measuring impact or adequately informing state lawmakers and other policy makers of what needed to be done. …

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SAVED: School Committee votes to keep nutrition services in-house

Source: Bryan McGonigle, Wicked Local Georgetown, May 4, 2017
 
In a striking twist of irony, Georgetown’s school cafeteria workers spent School Nutrition Employee Week – meant to honor and highlight their value to the community – fighting for their jobs.   … After three hours of discussion and debate, the School Committee unanimously voted to keep the district’s current program and not outsource food services to Whitsons Culinary Group – a national school lunch and catering corporation. … Under the Whitsons proposal, most employees would be invited to stay and work for that company at the same hourly rate. But benefits would only be offered after a 90-day probationary period – meaning employees would have to wait 90 days to get something they currently have.   And benefits would only be offered to full-time employees, with 30 hours a week being the full-time benchmark. Only a couple of employees currently work 30 hours or more, however, so most would not even qualify.  “The jobs they hold now will be gone, and they will be replaced, only with an offer to do the same job for less,” Jim Durkin, representative from the AFSCME Council 93, said to the committee. “Less money, less paid time off, a reduction in retirement benefits through the loss of pension eligibility, and a loss of eligibility for health insurance for them and their kids.” … If improvements aren’t seen and participation doesn’t rise, the committee will likely send out another RFP for outsourcing the program next year.

Union-backed bill to cut contractor work draws ire

Source: Kate Bradshaw, The Almanac, May 3, 2017
 
A California Assembly bill, backed by government unions, that would set limits on how cities contract for services has drawn vehement opposition, and some support, from Menlo Park residents who emailed the City Council in recent days. … Backed by union organizations – the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO, and the California State Council of the Service Employees International Union – the bill would require cities and counties to conduct a cost-benefit analysis of using city employees to do the job versus hiring a contractor. Government agencies would have to show that no city workers would be displaced, demoted or given fewer hours because of the contract. Also, the contractor would have to reimburse the city for the cost of the analysis. …

Missouri lawmakers send ban on project labor agreements to Greitens

Source: Celeste Bott, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 27, 2017

Missouri’s cities and counties could lose state funding if they force nonunion contractors to pay workers union wages for public projects, under a measure now headed to Gov. Eric Greitens’ desk.  Current law allows both union and nonunion contractors to bid on public construction projects. But under a project labor agreement, local governments can require nonunion contractors to pay union wages, something Missouri Republicans call an unfair practice that discourages competition.  The legislation also would ban local governments from giving preferential treatment to union contractors. Governments that violate those provisions would lose state funding and tax credits for two years.  Greitens, a Republican, has listed the elimination of the agreements, or PLAs, among his labor reform priorities, which he says will persuade more businesses to set up shop in Missouri. …

Gov. Kasich’s budget bill would allow no-bid sale of 6,900 acres of prison farmland

Source: Alan Johnson, Columbus Dispatch, April 29, 2017

The state could sell more than 6,900 acres of prison farmland through “negotiated real-estate purchase agreements” rather than competitive bidding or public auctions under the budget bill pending in the Ohio House.  Language permitting an unusual no-bid process for selling nearly 11 square miles of state land is built into the two-year state budget proposed by Gov. John Kasich’s administration. … The Ohio Civil Service Employees Association, a labor union representing about 30,000 state employees, including prison workers, said in a statement that the proposed no-bid process for selling the land is “troubling.” The union wants it removed from the budget bill.   “The clear pattern of waiving the rules around competitive state bids is troubling,” said union President Chris Mabe.  “Not only are IT (information technology) contracts part of that pattern, it now appears state farmlands could be sold in a back-door deal with zero competition or transparency. For all we know, whoever lobbied to close the farms could walk away with a huge land deal for a fraction of the value. Either way, taxpayers will be the loser here.” …

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An end of an era at prison farm as beef cattle are sold
Source: Lou Whitmire, Mansfield News Journal, October 25, 2016

The beef cattle that graze outside the Mansfield Correctional Institution farm on Ohio 13 were sold Tuesday at auction, ending an era at the prison for inmates raising registered Angus cattle. MANCI cattle manager Bernard Bauer II became emotional, unable to speak for a few seconds as he told the large crowd of farmers who came to bid that he had spent the past 14 years building the registered Angus herd. … The cattle auction Tuesday was held for a complete dispersal of prison’s registered  Angus breeding herd, including registered aged bred cows, registered bred heifers, registered open breeding heifers, commercial open yearling heifers, registered breeding bulls and registered bull calves. This herd had an estimated aggregate value at auction of $535,250. … In April, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections announced the state prison farm operated at Mansfield Correctional Institution was among 10 agricultural operations Ohio is shutting down in a move to raise millions of dollars to fund new rehabilitation and job-training programs for inmates through land sales. … Earlier, Ohio Civil Service Employees Association officials said the move was announced “without much explanation, rationale or plan” in a conference call to the union. Tuesday, roughly 50 members of the union picketed along Ohio 13 North, outside the farm. The union had sought an injunction from the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas to halt the sale of prison farm assets until a pending grievance was arbitrated. The court denied the union’s request. A grievance filed by the union regarding the closures is still pending. …

The Day The Last Cows Left Prison
Source: Esther Honig, WOSU, October 25, 2016

As the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections prepares to shut down its farming operations, the final auction of black Angus cattle got underway at the Mansfield Correctional Institution. Some 300 buyers came from around the country. But not everyone is pleased to see the cows off. … As cattle were auctioned off, the union representing the Mansfield prison farm employees – the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association – held a protest outside the prison. They’ve organized protests for the other three cattle auctions held by the ODRC earlier this year. Union president Chris Mabe says 50 ODRC employees will lose their jobs due to the closures. He say the program was beneficial for inmates and the local community. … Products from the prison farms, like milk and vegetables, were used to supplement the diets of Ohio inmates. The farms also donated thousands of pound of vegetables to local food banks. Jo Ellen Smith with the Ohio Corrections Department says the farming program is being phased out to make room for, “more meaningful career training opportunities.” …

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Atlantic County considers privatizing assets to mitigate PILOT costs

Source: John DeRosier, Press of Atlantic City, April 27, 2017

Atlantic County is considering privatizing some of its assets to mitigate the costs associated with casino tax refunds and because it’s not getting a 13.5 percent share of the PILOT money. Such moves could save taxpayers money but cost some county employees their jobs. The county has been responsible for refunding more than $65 million to Atlantic City since 2010 because of costly tax appeals by the casinos. … On Tuesday, however, Freeholder Chairman Frank Formica said the county is considering privatizing assets that don’t make money, such as Meadowview Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Northfield, in an effort to spare residents from large tax increases and keep social services, such as Meals on Wheels, intact. …

Labor Department Union Tells Acosta to Stop Contracting Out Jobs

Source: Ben Penn, Daily Labor Report, May 1, 2017 (Subscription required)

The union representing Labor Department employees welcomed new Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta by asking him to avoid displacing federal employees with contractors, according to a letter the union president provided to Bloomberg BNA. “There is an army of contractors who work for the United States Department of Labor that clearly outnumbers federal employees here,” Alex Bastani, president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 12, wrote to Acosta on May 1. “Unlike federal employees, these contractors are not required to be citizens of the United States.” The local represents some 3,000 DOL workers in Washington.

What a New Study on Vouchers Means for Trump’s Agenda

Source: Leah Askarainam, The Atlantic, April 28, 2017

… But a report released Thursday found largely negative results for students who participated in the District of Columbia’s Opportunity Scholarship Program, suggesting that many of the program’s beneficiaries might actually fare better if they turn down the private-school money.  The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) compared test scores for two groups of students: students who, through a lottery process, were selected to receive vouchers, and students who applied for yet didn’t receive them. The study compared the progress of both groups of students from spring of 2012 to 2014 and found that, a year after they applied for the scholarship, math scores were lower for students who won vouchers. What’s more, after narrowing the pool of students down to those in kindergarten through fifth grade, both reading and math scores were lower for students who won vouchers. …

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A Federal Funding Fight Over D.C. Vouchers
Source: Hannah Hess, Roll Call, Hill Blotter blog, March 17, 2015

Republicans on Capitol Hill are trying to protect the D.C. school voucher system, a GOP pet program championed by Speaker John A. Boehner and others. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Republicans are gearing up to move forward on a bill reauthorizing vouchers in the nation’s capital, an initiative known as the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. They are concerned the White House has again signaled the demise of the federally funded private-school program in its fiscal 2016 budget request…. The president’s budget includes $43.2 million to remain available until expended, a reduction from $45 million in fiscal 2015. The administration wants $3.2 million of the proposed figure to be used for an evaluation of the program…..

Graduation rates up for D.C. public schools, down for charter schools
Source: Michael Alison Chandler, Washington Post, March 17, 2015

D.C. Public Schools’ graduation rate increased last school year by two percentage points, to 58 percent, but the city’s public charter schools recorded a drop of nearly seven points, to 69 percent, according to new data. The citywide average for the Class of 2014 — 61 percent — was almost unchanged from the year before, according to data from the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE). The city’s graduation rate remains far below the national average of 81 percent….

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Illinois prison agency rescinds nurse layoffs to still talk

Source: Associated Press, April 27, 2017
 
The Illinois Department of Corrections has withdrawn its plan to lay off 124 nurses while continuing to negotiate with the state employees’ union.  Corrections spokeswoman Nicole Wilson said Thursday the department had informed the Illinois Nurses Association that it would not remove the nurses June 15. She says prison officials are available to meet any time but the union is unavailable until May 8.  Union spokesman Chris Martin says the Corrections Department decision is welcome news. He encouraged support for legislation to halt privatizing prison jobs that was sent to Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner. …

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Lawmakers seek to block privatization of prison nurse jobs
Source: Tony Reid, Herald & Review, April 11, 2017
 
The prognosis for a group of unionized prison nursing jobs across Central Illinois hangs in the balance as last-ditch efforts are made to save them.  The correctional facility nurses – seven in Decatur, 12 in Vandalia and four in Lincoln – are among 124 nurses statewide who have been told by Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration their state jobs will end in June 15. … Among those supporting the effort to save the jobs is state Rep. Sue Scherer, D-Decatur, who is among the sponsors of new legislation that would prevent the nurses from being laid off and their work from being outsourced.  All that is needed is for Rauner to sign the bill, a hope that appears to be on life support given the governor’s oft-stated anti-union stance. Nicole Wilson, a spokeswoman for the Department of Corrections, has previously said that privatizing the nursing jobs would save taxpayers $8 million a year. …

Senate OKs prohibition on privatizing prison nurses jobs
Source: Associated Press, March 29, 2017

The Illinois Senate is telling Gov. Bruce Rauner it doesn’t want prison nurse jobs filled by private contractors. Plainview Republican Sen. Sam McCann’s measure won approval Wednesday 40-15. It would prohibit the Department of Corrections from eliminating jobs of any state employees who provide prison health care services. Republican Rauner’s administration announced last week it intended to dismiss 124 union nurses and privatize their positions this summer. …

Two state senators file bill to stop Rauner’s plan to privatize jobs of 124 prison nurses
Source: Molly Parker, The Southern Illinoisan, March 28, 2017

Two state senators are co-sponsoring legislation they say would stop Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration from outsourcing additional medical and mental health service jobs from state prisons. This past week, 124 nurses employed at 10 state prisons learned that they were being laid off and their jobs privatized. In Southern Illinois, that includes 13 nurses employed at Menard Correctional Center, and 13 at Vienna Correctional Center. … That number includes 150 nurses who are members of the Illinois Nurses Association, the majority of whom received layoff notices. It would protect an additional 172 medical technicians and mental health professionals who are members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union. …

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California bill would blacklist contractors involved in U.S.-Mexico border wall project

Source: Katy Murphy, San Jose Mercury News, April 25, 2017

Contractors would have to choose between building a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico and doing business with California under a legislative proposal that advanced in the Senate Tuesday.  As California continues to fight the Trump administration’s agenda, Senate Bill 30 by Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, would blacklist companies who help to build the controversial border wall that President Donald Trump has promised to build — a project estimated to cost more than $20 billion, funding the president has yet to secure. …