South Carolina lawmakers have undertaken reforms to address some of the serious issues with their state’s pension system, but major changes are still needed to prevent future budget problems. In 2012, the state increased employee and employer contribution rates for the South Carolina Retirement System (SCRS), the state’s public pension fund. The increase affected current members as well as new hires. The 2012 reforms also reduced the expected rate of return for pension investments and reduced the minimum cost-of-living benefit increase. In 2000 and 2002, the state created optional defined-contribution plans for existing and new state and local government employees and teachers.
Author: Matthew Glans
Medicaid expansion is an expensive endeavor that many critics believe does not provide better or more affordable health care. Many of the expansion plans that states are now considering use federal dollars to expand their Medicaid programs to a larger portion of their state, creating new costs the federal government may not always be able to cover and leaving state taxpayers on the hook for the new liabilities.
In November 2016, Colorado voters will decide on a new ballot measure, a state constitutional amendment that would create “ColoradoCare,” a new single-payer, government-run health care system in Colorado. Colorado would be the second state — Vermont was the first — to attempt the creation of a single-payer health care system. Single-payer systems face major obstacles that make implementation difficult, if not impossible.
Legislators have long attempted to reduce the negative health impacts of smoking through taxes, bans, and regulations. Some have tried to extend these same policies to electronic cigarettes or “e-cigarettes,” even though they contain no tobacco and are substantially less harmful than traditional cigarettes. This week, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) unveiled new regulations placing electronic cigarettes under an avalanche of new rules requiring that they be approved as a new type of tobacco product — effectively treating them like traditional cigarettes.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, allows states to expand Medicaid to cover individuals making up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level. Thirty states and the District of Columbia have chosen to expand their Medicaid programs under the ACA, and 20 states, including Virginia, have refused to do so.
One of the most ambitious efforts to replicate real-world competition in the Affordable Care Act has proven to be a growing failure. In an attempt to increase competition in the healthcare market and on the new health insurance exchanges, ACA established a program to assist in the creation of new private nonprofit health insurers, known as consumer oriented and operated plans.
Competition has long been proven to improve services, lower prices, and give consumers more choices, but despite the success of the free market, Georgia has decided to restrict competition in its health care industry. Georgia is one of 36 states that limit the ability of health care providers to expand their businesses by mandating an approval process known as a certificate of need. The system gives current suppliers of health care services an unfair advantage and keeps out new entrants into the marketplace.
Alaska Gov. Bill Walker’s (I) efforts to use executive power unilaterally to expand Medicaid in his state deserve a strong response from the State Legislature, not timid deference to the courts— an equal, not superior, branch of government. Alaska’s Medicaid program is in dire need of reform, not expansion. It has grown at an unsustainable rate, increasing by 150 percent over the past decade. State costs have increased by 300 percent since 2000.
Chicago faces a significant and growing public pension problem. Instead of tackling the problem head-on by holding down cost increases, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel proposes several new or expanded taxes, which he says will slow down the debt growth from the revenue end. Emanuel’s half-billion-dollar property tax hike is getting most of the headlines, but he has also been pushing for taxes on e-cigarettes, ridesharing, and cloud computing.
Northern Virginia has experienced strong and consistent population growth over the past decade. Loudoun County grew more than any other county in the commonwealth over the past three years and recently became Virginia’s third most populous county. A booming population has led to growth in Northern Virginia’s economy, with competitive markets developing in all manner of industries, save one: health care. A single provider that has developed a near-monopoly, Inova, dominates health care in region.
For decades, lawmakers and regulators in the United States have attempted to reduce smoking rates using taxes, smoking bans, and regulations. Despite these heavy-handed policies, the decline in smoking has leveled off over the past few years. Electronic cigarettes, meanwhile, have quickly become one of the most popular nicotine replacement products, with the total market expected to reach $1.7 billion in 2015.
On May 12 and 13, Chicago received a series of downgrades in its credit ratings for the city itself, the Chicago Board of Education (CBE), and the Chicago Park District. The downgrades began Moody’s Investors Service’s (MIS) decision to lower Chicago’s credit rating two notches to the noninvestment-grade “Ba1” level with a negative outlook. The embarrassment continued the next day when the CBE and Chicago Park District ratings dropped three notches to junk levels.
TweetThe Marketplace Fairness Act has once again risen from the dead. A group of legislators has once again introduced legislation which would significantly change how online retailers are taxed. The[…]
While lawmakers across the country debate proposals to increase state minimum wage rates, proponents have turned their attention toward ballot measures that might kill two birds with one stone: putting voters on the record as supporting minimum wage increases as well as getting out the vote for Democrat candidates.
TweetThe Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act is common-sense Internet policy that is a long time coming. Internet access taxes are particularly damaging to the growth of the Internet economy by[…]
Gov. Pat Quinn’s “millionaire tax” question, the most recent nonbinding vote added to the bloated November ballot, is not only a misguided effort to draw his base to the polls with blatant class warfare but incredibly poor public policy. Like all “soak the rich” tax schemes, the imposition of increased taxes on high-income earners will discourage new capital and entrepreneurs from entering the state.
TweetChicago faces a significant, and growing public pension problem. According to the Chicago Sun Times, Chicago’s four pension plans (including for teachers and public safety workers) face a combined debt[…]