Public Money

Can Governments Give the People What They Want?

Know what a trend gap is? It’s the difference between governments’ long-term ability to provide public services that the public demands, and citizens’ willingness to pay for those services.

That’s according to Bo Zhao and David Coyne, two economists who have been using the phrase as a measure of the long-term fiscal sustainability of states and localities. READ MORE

States Search for Retirement Security Beyond Obama’s myRA

In his State of the Union address this January, President Obama unveiled a "starter" public retirement savings account called "myRA," a play on the acronym IRA for individual retirement account. He argued it was an essential step toward addressing an enormous issue: Half of American workers (and 75 percent of part-time workers) lack access to employer-sponsored retirement plans.

When these Americans hit retirement age, they won't be tapping nest eggs but public social service programs. “It’s about seeing a change from welfare mom to welfare grandma,” says Lynea Hansen, executive director of the Colorado Coalition for Retirement Security. READ MORE

Public Health Funding May Get a Shot in the Arm

When you hear “public health,” you may think of flu shots. That’s one visible -- and briefly painful -- side of public health services. But if you’ve enjoyed tobacco-smoke-free air, thought twice about ordering a cheeseburger after seeing its calorie count on a menu, or not worried about tuberculosis in your community, you’ve also “used” public health services. These services are essential, ubiquitous and usually unnoticed.

They’ve also been hit hard by the recession. Since 2008 about 17 percent of the state public health workforce and 22 percent of the local public health workforce have been eliminated, according to a 2011 report from the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. Several reports have enumerated how, as a result of these cuts, we’re more vulnerable to communicable diseases, water-borne infections and other health concerns. READ MORE

2 Reasons to Be Upbeat About the Muni Bond Market

Let's get the bad news out of the way first: Despite continued low borrowing costs, the first quarter of 2014 saw 26 percent lower issuance in the municipal bond market than last year. Moreover, there's not much optimism that things will improve. Market experts predict that 2014 activity overall will be down by 8 percent to 12 percent.

Still with me? Good, because there are two reasons to be positive. The first is bond insurance, which is making a comeback. READ MORE

Corporate Tax Attacks in the States

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill have been complaining for years about corporate tax havens. The Congressional Research Services reports that offshore tax shelters cost the federal government between $30 billion and $90 billion a year. But such is the gridlock in Washington that even bipartisan efforts to do something about the problem have stalled. That's where Maine comes in. Tired of waiting on Washington, it passed legislation this month with an eye toward recouping the estimated $5 million in corporate income tax revenue lost a year.

The new legislation will treat income that companies list in 38 known tax haven countries as domestic income for Maine tax purposes, bringing the state millions in tax revenues. "If a big company like Apple sells things in Maine, they should pay a portion of their corporate tax in Maine, even if they have income in Bermuda," is the rationale from Democratic Rep. Adam Goode of Bangor, the sponsor of the bill. READ MORE