Using Private Investment to Preserve Public Housing

November 7, 2014 at 2:50 pm

As it writes the final housing appropriations bill for fiscal year 2015, Congress should include a Senate Appropriations Committee-approved provision to expand the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD).  Our new paper explains why expanding RAD makes sense, as it would help repair the nation’s public housing stock and preserve needed affordable housing for vulnerable seniors, people with disabilities, and families with children.

RAD helps local housing agencies revitalize and preserve some public housing by permitting them to convert public housing units to “Section 8” rental assistance subsidies, which in turn enables them to more easily obtain private investment for renovation.… Read more

Boehner, McConnell Mislead on Health Reform’s Employer Mandate

November 7, 2014 at 11:06 am

House Speaker Boehner and Senate Minority Leader McConnell called this week for a major change in health reform’s requirement that larger employers offer health coverage to employees who work 30 or more hours a week or face a penalty.  Claiming that the 30-hour threshold is “an arbitrary and destructive government barrier to more hours,” they propose raising it to 40 hours.  In reality, however, that step would lead to fewer hours and more part-time work — the exact opposite of what their rhetoric about “restoring” the 40-hour work week implies.… Read more

Today’s Jobs Report in Pictures

November 7, 2014 at 10:33 am

Today’s solid jobs report shows the labor market continues to improve in important ways but that wage growth continues to languish.  That suggests the Federal Reserve should wait until the labor market improves enough to boost wages before beginning to raise interest rates.

Click here for my statement with further analysis.






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California Votes to Shrink Prison Population and Reinvest Savings

November 6, 2014 at 4:28 pm

California voters approved Tuesday a measure to not only reduce the state prison population but also reinvest the savings in specific, high-priority programs.  As our recent report on criminal justice reform and education investments explains, Proposition 47 includes several features that make it a model reform.

Specifically, it:

  • Makes targeted sentencing reductions by reclassifying certain offenses from felonies to misdemeanors, for both current and future offenders.
  • Requires the state to calculate the savings from these reforms each year and deposit them in a dedicated fund.
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Latest CRS Findings Refute Scare Talk About Medical Device Tax

November 6, 2014 at 12:51 pm

With congressional Republicans reportedly planning a renewed push to repeal the medical device tax, a Congressional Research Service report updated this week is especially notable.  It confirms what we’ve been saying for some time:  The 2.3-percent excise tax, which will raise $26 billion over the next decade to help pay for health reform, has only a very limited economic impact, contrary to the dire predictions of industry lobbyists.

  • “The effect on the price of health care,” CRS says, “will most likely be negligible because of the small size of the tax and small share of health care spending attributable to medical devices.” (page ii)
  • “The drop in U.S.
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Tens of Thousands Apply for Scarce Housing Vouchers

November 6, 2014 at 9:00 am

Five local housing authorities that recently gave low-income residents their first chance in years to get on a waiting list for a Housing Choice Voucher received a flood of applications. This is further evidence that the need for affordable housing far outstrips the supply — and that federal voucher funding, squeezed by the sequestration cuts, is inadequate.

In Charlotte, which awards roughly 400 vouchers a year to new recipients as others leave the program, 32,000 applied for the waiting list (see chart).… Read more

How Has State K-12 Funding Fared in Your State?

November 5, 2014 at 3:00 pm

This interactive map shows the change — in both dollars and percent — in state general K-12 funding per student since 2008.  As our recent report explains, funding is below pre-recession levels in at least 30 states, after adjusting for inflation; in 14 states, the decline exceeds 10 percent.  While most states are providing more funding per student this school year than they did a year ago, funding generally hasn’t risen enough to fully offset earlier cuts.


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State K-12 Funding in 80 Seconds

November 4, 2014 at 9:47 am

Most states continue to spend less — often far less — per student in general funding for kindergarten through 12th grade than they did before the recession began seven years ago, as our latest analysis shows.  These cuts have serious consequences for students, schools, and jobs.  This short video explains what states should do to ensure that children have the education to succeed in the global economy.

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Neighborhoods Do Matter to Kids’ Success

November 3, 2014 at 2:55 pm

Do neighborhoods matter to kids’ well-being and long-term success? Intuition says yes — indeed, families that can afford to often bet large sums that locating in good neighborhoods with strong schools will benefit their kids. A careful review of the research evidence supports this intuition.

Some observers question the value of good neighborhoods, citing findings from Moving to Opportunity (MTO), a 15-year, random-assignment study of nearly 5,000 low-income families that the federal government designed explicitly to see whether moving to low-poverty neighborhoods benefits low-income children and their families.… Read more

In Case You Missed It…

October 31, 2014 at 3:55 pm

This week on Off the Charts, we focused on state budgets and taxes, health care, the federal budget and taxes, and the safety net.

  • On state budgets and taxes, Michael Leachman excerpted his recent debate with the Heritage Foundation’s Stephen Moore on Kansas’ radical tax cuts. Michael Mitchell explained why states should spend less on maintaining extremely high prison populations and more on schools.  He also analyzed the causes and costs of high incarceration rates and listed four ways that states can reduce incarceration rates.
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State Welfare Benefits Continue Shrinking

October 31, 2014 at 2:00 pm

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) cash benefits for the nation’s poorest families with children fell again in purchasing power in 2014 and are now at least 20 percent below their inflation-adjusted 1996 levels in 38 states, our new report explains.  As the country moves past the economic downturn and state revenues recover, states should halt the erosion of TANF benefits and begin restoring the purchasing power lost since TANF’s creation in 1996.

While eight states raised benefits between July 2013 (the start of fiscal year 2014 in most states) and July 2014, the remaining states didn’t, allowing inflation to continue to erode the benefits’ value. … Read more

4 Ways States Can Reduce Incarceration Rates

October 31, 2014 at 11:51 am

I outlined recently the causes and costs of states’ high incarceration rates. While most states, under both Republican and Democratic control, have enacted criminal justice reforms in recent years to reduce prison populations without harming public safety, most states’ reforms to date haven’t been extensive enough to have a big impact on prison populations.

State policymakers need to enact reforms that target the main drivers of high incarceration rates: the number of people admitted (or re-admitted) into correctional facilities and the length of their prison stays.… Read more