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How legislators can help get Minnesotans back into the workforce

From: American Experiment 

Minnesotans are getting back into the workforce. According to new numbers, Minnesota’s unemployment rate in February was the lowest in decades. And fortunately, this is due to people moving into the workforce.

According to the Star Tribune,

Minnesota’s unemployment rate dipped last month to the lowest it’s been in more than 20 years as the state’s labor shortage remains intense.

The jobless rate ticked down two-tenths of a percent to 2.7% in February, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) reported Thursday.

That’s more than a full percentage point lower than the U.S. unemployment rate, which was 3.8% last month.

A number of issues still remain, however. For one, our state is yet to recover more than 100,000 jobs that have been lost since the pandemic started. Moreover, our labor force is still shrunken.

Minnesota’s labor force is about 106,000 workers smaller than it was before the pandemic, when the participation rate was about three percentage points higher. The pandemic spurred some workers to retire early and led others to drop out of the workforce due to childcare and other challenges.

And the number of employed people is 122,000 below where it was in February 2020. Minnesota has recovered about 71% of the jobs it lost in March and April 2020, when many businesses were forced to close as COVID-19 spread across the country.

How to get Minnesotans back to work

While economic trends are susceptible to some general trends, Minnesota’s recovery has, in general, lagged most states. Our high taxes and strict regulatory policies are largely to blame for that trend. Fortunately, there are a couple of reforms that lawmakers could take to make it even much easier for Minnesotans to get back to work.

Unemployment insurance Tax

High unemployment insurance taxes make hiring workers expensive, and they ultimately lower wages for workers. Legislators need to work on replenishing the unemployment insurance trust fund to ensure that businesses are not burdened by higher unemployment taxes for much longer.

Income taxes

High income taxes raise costs for businesses and discourage individuals from undertaking economically productive activities. The state of Minnesota lagged most states in business creation in recent years, and one of the big causes of that is our high taxes.

New businesses are, however, a huge driver of job creation and economic growth. Legislators should cut taxes in order to spur investment, job creation, and economic growth and get more Minnesotans into the workforce.

Occupational licensing

Burdensome occupational licensing rules keep low-income Minnesotans out of the workforce. Moreover, they prevent workers from other states from moving to Minnesota.

Low-income workers have been especially burdened by job losses during the pandemic. Making it easier for them to obtain licenses in low-risk occupations like cosmetology would encourage entrepreneurship and employment.

The minimum wage

Minimum wage law is a huge driver of unemployment, especially among youth and low-skilled workers. While legislators have little control over regional minimum wage policies, they can change state policy.

Lawmakers need to abolish the state-wide minimum wage law and make it easier for businesses — especially small businesses — to hire low-skilled and younger workers who have been especially hurt by job losses during the pandemic.

Without reform, the future looks bleak

Even before the pandemic, Minnesota was lagging other states in economic growth. This pandemic has merely worsened that trend. Fiscal and regulatory reform is not only necessary, but urgent.

Our economy needs to be able to compete with other states and other countries for skilled workers and capital. Our high taxes and burdensome regulations make that difficult to do. And without reform, legislators only risk worsening current trends.

State GOP bill seeks to protect small business interests from new regulations

From: WDEL 

Citing a study that calls Delaware one of the 10 worst states to start a business, Delaware’s GOP leaders are re-introducing a bill that would require new state regulations take the economic impact of small businesses into account.

WalletHub declared Delaware just the 42nd best state in the country to start a business, and State Rep. Charles Postles (R-Magnolia/Frederica) said it’s partially because Delaware makes rules that hurt smaller businesses owners.

“I also understand that it’s easy for agencies to make regulations that have the weight of law, and sometimes have an overbearing effect on small businesses.”

WalletHub said they used data including number of startups per capital, cost of living, business environment, and access to resources, among other metrics.

Conversely, Delaware is rated No. 6 in the best states for overall business by U.S. News and World Report.

The bill is expected to be similar to last session’s HB167, that was sent to the House Administration Committee on May 30, 2019, and never even was discussed in committee before the session ended in June 2020.

Postles said he’s trying to speak up for businesses owners.

“I’ve had entrepreneurs, small businesspeople, trying to get started or expand their business telling me that it’s increasingly difficult to do.”

The bill would require as part of the periodic review of regulations that any process minimize the impact on small businesses, and see if there are conflicts with federal, state, or local restrictions.

Postles said his updated version of the bill will contain provisions that would block any new regulation that doesn’t comply with economic impact disclosure reforms.

“I’m just asking that they look at the regulations that they are imposing and do it in the least intrusive and least costly method.”

Facts & Figures 2022: How Does Your State Compare?

From: The Tax Foundation

How do taxes in your state compare regionally and nationally? Facts and Figures, a resource we’ve provided to U.S. taxpayers and legislators since 1941, serves as a one-stop state tax data resource that compares all 50 states on over 40 measures of tax rates, collections, burdens, and more.

For visualizations and further analysis of 2022 state tax data, explore our state tax maps, the latest edition of our State Business Tax Climate Index, and subscribe to our weekly tax newsletter. Download and explore the latest 2022 state tax data with our interactive tool below.

Download Table 1 as an Excel File

State Tax Collections per Capita

Fiscal Year 2020

State
Collections per Capita
Rank
United States $3,217
Alabama $2,397 42
Alaska $1,797 50
Arizona $2,487 39
Arkansas $3,405 16
California $4,349 9
Colorado $2,611 36
Connecticut $5,103 4
Delaware $4,602 6
Florida $2,002 49
Georgia $2,218 45
Hawaii $5,296 3
Idaho $2,872 31
Illinois $3,534 14
Indiana $3,297 20
Iowa $3,342 19
Kansas $3,288 21
Kentucky $2,967 29
Louisiana $2,443 40
Maine $3,561 13
Maryland $3,866 11
Massachusetts $4,499 8
Michigan $2,785 32
Minnesota $4,695 5
Mississippi $2,735 33
Missouri $2,016 48
Montana $2,922 30
Nebraska $2,986 28
Nevada $3,045 26
New Hampshire $2,075 47
New Jersey $4,083 10
New Mexico $3,377 18
New York $4,590 7
North Carolina $2,711 34
North Dakota $5,566 1
Ohio $2,592 37
Oklahoma $2,590 38
Oregon $3,015 27
Pennsylvania $3,129 24
Rhode Island $3,214 23
South Carolina $2,304 43
South Dakota $2,276 44
Tennessee $2,427 41
Texas $2,093 46
Utah $2,669 35
Vermont $5,318 2
Virginia $3,251 22
Washington $3,766 12
West Virginia $3,049 25
Wisconsin $3,413 15
Wyoming $3,405 17

Note: D.C. is included only in combined state and local data; see Table 5. See Table 42 for people per household by state.

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, “Annual Survey of State Government Tax Collections”; Tax Foundation calculations.

Maryland legislators, governor agree to nearly $1.9 billion in tax relief over 5 years

From: Delaware Business Now

An agreement has been hammered out on legislation that will bring tax breaks for many Maryland residents.

The bipartisan agreement will provide $1.86 billion in tax relief over five years for retirees, small businesses, and low-income families. Adjusted for population, the agreement would be the equivalent of Delaware spending about $300 million to fund a similar measure.

Maryland’s legislation was heavily weighted toward tax relief for elderly residents.

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Combined with the gas tax holiday Maryland’s legislative session offered $2 billion in tax relief, a release from the governor’s office stated.

Maryland, like neighboring Delaware, is seeing a budget surplus, thanks to pandemic relief measures that were largely borne by the federal government. When combined with surging tax revenues, Maryland now has a $4.5 billion surplus. The Delaware figure is around $1 billion.

Under a recently announced bipartisan deal, Delaware tax filers will get one-time $300 checks this spring, with no long-term relief package surfacing.

“Today, we are announcing the largest tax cut package in state history with major and long-overdue relief for Maryland’s retirees,” said Gov. Larry Hogan. “Cutting our state’s retirement taxes is something we have been trying to accomplish for seven years, and I want to thank the leaders of the General Assembly for working with us to get this done for Maryland’s seniors. This agreement will deliver on our promise to provide real, long-term relief for hard-working Marylanders dealing with inflation and higher prices and help create more jobs and more opportunity to continue our strong recovery.”

This bipartisan tax relief agreement includes the following provisions for the next five years, according to a release from the Maryland governor’s office.

  • Tax Relief for Retirees 65 and older making up to $100,000 in retirement income, and married couples making up to $150,000 in retirement income. As a result, 80% of Maryland’s retirees will receive relief or pay no state income taxes at all. ($1.55 billion)
  • The Work Opportunity Tax Credit encourages employers and businesses to hire and retain workers from underserved communities that have faced barriers to employment. ($195 million)
  • Family Budget Boosters: sales tax exemptions for childcare products such as diapers, car seats, and baby bottles, and critical health products such as dental hygiene products, diabetic care products, and medical devices. ($115.6 million)

 

Bill creating an inspector general in Delaware coming to Leg Hall

From: Delaware Public Media

A bill to create an office of inspector general will be introduced in Dover.

Republican State Rep. Mike Smith plans to introduce the bill before the General Assembly next meets on April 5.

Smith’s legislation would have the inspector general investigate complaints of waste, fraud, abuse, or corruption regarding state employees or state agencies.

He says the office would fill the gaps in the work of the state Auditor and state Attorney General while working collaboratively with those offices to provide more comprehensive accountability.

Smith’s proposal would have the governor appoint the inspector general with the senate confirming the candidate.

Smith says there is interest from both sides of the aisle for an inspector general.

“A lot of the feedback I’ve gotten is that a lot of folks have been thinking about this, considering this, and thought about it themselves since being elected, and something I’ve been looking at over the last several months. So I expect some bipartisan support from across the aisle, across each caucus in the General Assembly,” said Smith.

Smith says the time is right for Delaware to have an inspector general.

“I think it’s now more needed than ever, and we’ve had examples over the years and over the last several months of why that may be and I think this would just create a mechanism for our state which is modeled off of many other states and federal agencies of how it could work,” said Smith.

Smith notes his proposal was taken from states with an inspector general in place. At least 11 states have an inspector general with statewide authority.

Delaware’s economic bounce-back from Covid among the nation’s weakest

From: Delaware Business Now

A federal report ranking jobless rates has Delaware ranking in the bottom third among the 50 states.

Delaware finished 37th in the report from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Separately, the WalletHub financial information website reported that Delaware ranked 42nd in its economic recovery from Covid-19. Click here for the full report that is based on six employment metrics.

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Bounced Back Most Bounced Back Least
1. Indiana 42. Delaware
2. Utah 43. Connecticut
3. Nebraska 44. Alaska
4. Kansas 45. Texas
5. Montana 46. Massachusetts
6. Oklahoma 47. Maryland
7. Minnesota 48. New Mexico
8. Alabama 49. Hawaii
9. New Hampshire 50. California
10. Arizona 51. District of Columbia
Source WalletHub

Mid-Atlantic states have seen slower job growth than some states in New England, the South, West, and Midwest. Despite government leaders bragging about its economic performance, Texas is tied with Delaware when it comes to the January jobless rate.

Hawaii, a tourism-dependent state, moved up in the rankings as leisure travel shows strength, according to the federal report.

Below is the ranking of states by jobless rate with Nebraska and Utah tied for first place.

The figures do not reflect the “great American resignation,” since those quitting their job do not usually show up in unemployment figures.

The abundance of some types of jobs is leading some to quit before finding a position with another employer.

State January 2022(P)
rate
Rank
Nebraska 2.2 1
Utah 2.2 1
Indiana 2.4 3
Kansas 2.6 4
Montana 2.7 5
Oklahoma 2.7 5
South Dakota 2.8 7
Minnesota 2.9 8
New Hampshire 2.9 8
Idaho 3.0 10
Vermont 3.0 10
Wisconsin 3.0 10
Alabama 3.1 13
North Dakota 3.1 13
Arkansas 3.2 15
Georgia 3.2 15
Virginia 3.3 17
Florida 3.5 18
South Carolina 3.5 18
Tennessee 3.5 18
Arizona 3.7 21
Iowa 3.7 21
Missouri 3.8 23
Wyoming 3.8 23
North Carolina 3.9 25
Colorado 4.1 26
Maine 4.1 26
West Virginia 4.1 26
Rhode Island 4.2 29
Louisiana 4.3 30
Ohio 4.3 30
Oregon 4.3 30
Hawaii 4.4 33
Kentucky 4.4 33
Washington 4.4 33
Mississippi 4.6 36
Delaware 4.8 37
Massachusetts 4.8 37
Texas 4.8 37
Michigan 4.9 40
Illinois 5.0 41
Nevada 5.2 42
New Jersey 5.2 42
Connecticut 5.3 44
New York 5.3 44
Maryland 5.4 46
Pennsylvania 5.4 46
Alaska 5.6 48
California 5.8 49
New Mexico 5.9 50
District of Columbia 6.3 51

Delaware’s rivers and streams are the most polluted in the U.S., a new report says

From: WHYY News 

Delaware has a higher percentage of rivers and streams affected by pollution than any other state in the country, according to an Environmental Integrity Project report that evaluates the success of the Clean Water Act — 50 years after it was signed into law.

Released Thursday, the report evaluates waterways across the United States that are classified as impaired. That means they’re too polluted to meet standards for uses such as swimming and recreation, aquatic life, fish consumption, and drinking.

The report credits some of the successes of the Clean Water Act —- it provided funding for thousands of upgrades to wastewater treatment plants and played a role in reducing raw human waste and industrial discharges from pouring into rivers and streams. However, the report’s authors argue there are weaknesses in the law that have left several waterways tainted.

The Environmental Integrity Project is calling for federal and state agencies to hold farms accountable for agricultural runoff and impose harsher enforcement of regulations, upgrade technology for treatment plants, and improve standards for those plants.

“Fifty years ago, we had the imagination and political will to face big problems and try to do something about them. We’re hoping at this half-century mark that we can find the courage to recommit to the Clean Water Act and make the hard decisions we need to make if we’re ever going to get fishable and swimmable water for everyone,” said Eric Schaeffer, executive director of the Environmental Integrity Project and former director of civil enforcement at the Environmental Protection Agency. His comment came during a Thursday press conference on the report.

Two Christina board members to revisit charter moratorium request

From: Delaware Live! 

Two Christina School Board members have asked the board to revisit its request for a moratorium on new charter schools in the state.

Dr. Naveed Baqir, who voted against the moratorium, will speak out against it during Tuesday’s board meeting.

Board member Donald Patton, who also voted against the moratorium, plans to provide support for Baqir during his presentation.

Patton said he believes that the motion to pass it was rooted in the district’s fear of losing students to charter schools. He said 7,434 students have left Christina School District over the past year to attend school elsewhere.

Efforts were unsuccessful to reach other school members or the system’s public information officer.

Four members voted Feb. 8 to pass the moratorium, which would also prohibit the expansion of existing charter schools. Baqir and Patton voted against it. One member was not present.

Baqir believes the board is sending the message that if they had their way, they would shut down other schools.

“It is important that we compete on the merit of our own accomplishments and achievements,” said Baqir. “We aren’t perfect. We have deficiencies and we can work on them.”

Baqir called the vote “100% political theater.”

For one thing, he said, Christina’s School Board’s vote means nothing unless a legislator adopts their statewide moratorium request and turns it into a bill that passes the Legislature and is signed by the governor. That has not happened in the month since their vote.

“I just don’t think that the Board of Education is a platform to express dissatisfaction with charters,” he said, “or seeing charters as the only problem with the education system that we have in the state of Delaware.”

He cited charter schools’ high level of academic achievement and the growing language inclusivity as points in their favor.

Baqir said the moratorium is the wrong focus for the Board when there are larger problems, including segregation and education equality.

Those who voted to temporarily prohibit the expansion and creation of charter schools pointed to the need for the school district to see how Gov. John Carney’s proposed Wilmington Learning collaborative and others, will develop.

That program is asking three school districts, including Christina, that have a small number of city students to form a program that will oversee only the Wilmington students in their districts.

Many city students have far different backgrounds and experiences than the rest of their suburban peers. When a district has to make program decisions, Carney has said, they must make them for the mainstream, which means programs and rules often skew suburban.

The board members who voted for the moratorium also want districts to be able to better understand improvement proposals from the Redding Consortium for Equal Education. That group wants to help Delaware’s poor and disadvantaged students.

Baqir doesn’t think that’s reason enough to stop charters.

He supports the learning collaborative but would like to see it also include the high school level rather than focusing only on kindergarten through eighth grade.

“For the last 40 years, every single school district in the city of Wilmington had an opportunity to fix the problems and didn’t,” he said.

Patton’s distaste for the moratorium stems from his belief that the only people who have any right to tell a child where to go to school are his/her parents.

“I am totally opposed to anything that impedes a parent’s decision to put their kids at a place where they believe their child has the best shot at success,” Patton said.

He said the board is putting up a “facade” and acting like “dictators” to conceal the district’s real concern: students exiting Christina School District to attend charters.

“We are ruffling feathers of people who have already chosen where they want their kid to go,” said Patton. “We are saying to them that their choice is wrong, and we are acting like we know what’s best for them and their children.”

The Christina meeting will be livestreamed here.

Auditor McGuiness Launches ‘Fox Tracker,’ an Online American Rescue Plan Act Fund Tracker

From: Delaware.gov.

DOVER, Del. – State Auditor Kathleen McGuiness announced today that a new American Rescue Plan Act (ARP) Fund Tracker, called the Fox Tracker, is now accessible on the Auditor’s Office website.

“The goal of the overall Project: Gray Fox initiative is to maintain transparency between state government and Delawareans,” McGuiness said. “Following the COVID-19 pandemic, it is imperative that the state be transparent about how it is spending this federal money to help create a strong economic resurgence.”

The development of the Fox Tracker comes after the federal government allocated over $1.5 billion in ARP funds to Delaware entities in March 2021. The Fox Tracker webpage breaks out exactly how much of that $1.5 billion has been allocated to each entity and program across the state.

“So, for example, Fox Tracker users can easily see that the state’s COVID School Emergency Relief Fund received a total of $410.9 million in ARP funds,” McGuiness said. “Then users can, with one click, see exactly how that $410.9 million has been expensed by school districts across the state.”

The Fox Tracker dovetails with the rest of Project: Gray Fox, which details how state agencies, school districts and municipalities are spending the ARP funds they have received. The interactive charts and graphs available at grayfox.delaware.gov allow users to drill down into transaction-level details about how state agencies and school districts have spent their ARP funds. For the 20 Gray Fox-participating municipalities, users can see exactly how much money they have spent in each approved ARP expenditure category.

“It’s a real-time continuum of how that $1.5 billion is being split up, how it’s been allocated and to whom, and exactly how entities are spending their portions,” McGuiness said. “The Fox Tracker and Project: Gray Fox provide the most in-depth, comprehensive information available online about the life cycle of these ARP funds in Delaware, and my office’s website is truly a one-stop shop for Delawareans to track this money in their communities.”

The Fox Tracker joins the CARES Act Fund Tracker, which shows how Delaware state agencies have spent the $927 million they received from the federal government as a result of the March 2020 passage of the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Fox Tracker data is updated every Thursday, and CARES Act Fund Tracker data is updated every Monday.

Caesar Rodney Institute joins more than 2 dozen groups protesting zero emission vehicle mandate

From: Delaware Business Now 

The Glasgow-based Caesar Rodney, a public policy group, joined 28 other organizations in an open letter criticizing other states adopting California’s zero-emissions vehicle standards.

Delaware’s mandate goes into effect in 2026 and requires that a certain percentage of vehicles come with hybrid or all-electric powertrains. Many of the organizations signing the letter represent gas stations and fuel suppliers.

CRI noted that Gov. John Carney adopted the mandate without legislative approval, noting that the measure would require that within 13 years, all vehicles sold in Delaware will be all-electric.

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The open letter “Stop California Style Regulations and Bans” strongly urges states not to follow that state’s executive order process with adopting the ZEV program.

Should Carney seek a legislative vote on the matter, chances of approval would have been strong since Democrats hold a sizable majority of seats in both houses.

The letter states that California is not like other states due to its size and population: “California is the largest state in the country. While the costs to California would be shared among millions of residents, and the geographic limits cross-border competition, most of the 16 other states would put themselves at a further economic disadvantage with neighboring states if these bans were implemented.” Additionally, the open letter warns citizens and legislators of the impact of following California’s process of the executive order with the ZEV regulations: “Authorization to join in California’s bans is not coming from elected legislatures or the people through direct democracy. It comes from governors and unelected bureaucrats, regardless of legal requirements. It sets a bad precedent for state governments to circumvent a process which incorporates citizens’ input. Please understand that, at its core, banning products during a 40 year high of inflation rates and during a global pandemic is a poor concept that is fundamentally economically damaging, and places an unnecessary financial burden on people who can least afford it.” Click here for a copy of the letter.

CRI and its energy director David Stevenson have been critical of electric vehicles, citing their higher costs. Instead, Stevenson has been supportive of hybrids. Supporters of EVs say battery prices are coming down and will make the vehicles competitive in the coming years.

General Motors has always indicated it will move to 100% all-electric vehicle production by 2035.