Super Committee failures spell bad news for state governments

Some say the Congressional “Super Committee” was doomed from the start.

The committee made up of six Republicans and six Democrats, made headlines last week when it failed to reach agreement on spending cuts– triggering $1.2 billion automatic budget cuts in 2013.

Now, Republicans are blaming Democrats and vice versa, but Los Angeles Times columnist Doyle McManus points out that the whole idea was a bad one from the start. Continue reading

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A picture is worth a thousand words: Jefferson County’s bankruptcy mess

Last week, I talked about the big bankruptcy mess surounding Jefferson County, Alabama, which this month filed for the largest municipal bankruptcy in history.

But to really put the size of this filing in context, a picture is worth a thousand words. So here’s a look at how Jefferson County’s towering debt obligations compares to other high-profile filings.

Credit: Melanie Hicken

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POLL: Weigh in on the NY state “millionaire’s tax” debate

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A closer look at the NY state “millionaire’s tax” debate

  1. New York residents got more bad budget news last week when state budget officials announced that lawmakers will need to fill a $350 million dollar budget gap this year. The bad budget news renewed debate over whether lawmakers should renew a tax on the state’s highest earners. Here’s a rundown on the debate that I created on Storify:
  2. State budget officials last week announced the additional budget shortfall, which they attributed to a variety of factors, including the European debt crisis and smaller bonuses on Wall Street.
  3. Weak and unsettled economic conditions around the world — illustrated by the Eurozone financial crisis, volatility in the financial markets, and persistently disappointing data on employment, consumer confidence, and income — have darkened the State’s fiscal outlook. The significant positive receipts results early in the fiscal year have been largely eroded as the economy weakened in the summer months. With the prospect of a weak bonus season on Wall Street, even more negative pressure is being placed on the State’s receipts outlook.
    November 20, 2011 5:28:56 PM EST
  4. In the wake of the announcement, some people across the state have renewed calls to renew the so-called “Millionaire tax.” Despite its name, the tax actually affects individual earners of $200,000 or families who take in $300,000 or more annually.  Continue reading
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Debt is another nasty four letter word for Jefferson County, Alabama

From Europe to Washington D.C., one four little world seems to be on most politicians’ minds.

Debt.

Enter Jefferson County, Alabama, which facing a crippling $3 billion in debt, last week entered the largest municipal bankruptcy filing in U.S. history — beating an infamous record held for more than a decade by Orange County, Calif. Continue reading

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The story behind the story

(Authors note: This is one in a series of blog posts related to business reporting class assignments.  While interesting (I hope!) they will likely not have much to do with municipal finance.)

“Among life’s core assumptions is that hospitals bring healing. But sometimes they bring harm.”

That’s the lede of the first story of “Do No Harm: Hospital Care in Las Vegas,” an award-winning special report published last year by the Las Vegas Sun.

As an aspiring investigative reporter, I Recently, I was able to sit down with one of the project’s two reporters to find out the story behind the story. Continue reading

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The case of the disappearing revenues

New census figures make it clear — 2009 was not a good year for state and local governments.

Municipal governments saw their total revenues plummet by more than 20% in 2009, down 587.5 billion from 2008’s take of $2.1 trillion, according to the Census Bureau’s 2009 Annual Survey of State and Local Government Finances. Continue reading

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