The people's voice of reason

Inside The Statehouse

March 18, 2015:

Alabama may be in the lower tier of the country in some categories but not when it comes to providing health insurance for children. In that one category we excel.

Brian Lyman with the Montgomery Advertiser provided an excellent study revealing that Alabama leads the south in taking care of its young people when it comes to giving them health coverage. A recent Georgetown University study showed that Alabama leads the south when it comes to healthcare for children. Remarkably we are ranked in the top 10 states in America.

The reason for this outstanding record is the state’s excellent Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). We refer to it in Alabama as the “All Kids” program.

Children can be enrolled in Alabama’s CHIP program even if their family income is up to $71,500 per year. The study said that Alabama did better than most states in the nation and all of the states in the south in making it easy for kids to be enrolled in the program. All Kids partners with the Alabama Medicaid agency and stresses outreach and cutting down on red tape barriers. More than 88,000 children in Alabama participate in All Kids.

Only 4.3% of Alabama children are uninsured. According to the study, Virginia was the closest southern state to us at 5.4%. Georgia has 9.6% and Florida has 11% of uninsured children.

Another survey done by the State Retirement Systems revealed some other remarkable facts about the economic impact of state pensions in Alabama. In 2012, over 115,000 Alabamians received a total of $2.9 billion in pension benefits from state and local pension plans. The recipients range from retired teachers, state employees, public safety and city retirees throughout the state. The average pension benefit received was $2,114 per month or $25,367 per year.

The Retirement System boasted that retirees’ expenditures stemming from state and local pensions supported 36,000 jobs that paid $1.4 billion in wages and salaries. The total economic impact of the state is $4.8 billion. The industries that benefit the most from the state retirement dollars are food services, real estate, physicians, dentists, public and private hospitals, nursing and residential care facilities, and retail stores.

Yet another study done by the leading personal finance social network WalletHub ranked all of the 50 states on the most and least fair tax systems. The states varied widely because some have high property taxes, some states do not even have a state sales tax and some do not have an income tax. Some of WalletHub’s findings and statistics show that the poor are most overtaxed in Washington, Illinois and Florida. The wealthy are most undertaxed in Wyoming, Alaska and South Dakota.

According to their study, most Americans think a fair state and local tax system taxes higher income households at a higher rate than lower income households. WalletHub says the five states with the worst fair tax systems are Washington, Hawaii, Arkansas, Illinois and Florida. The states with the most fair tax systems are Montana, Oregon, Delaware, Idaho and Virginia. Alabama ranks about in the middle of the pack at 35th in fairness.

Speaking of taxes, Gov. Bentley has come forward with a package of revenue enhancement measures designed to shore up the beleaguered

General Fund. The lynchpin proposal offered by the governor is to increase the cigarette tax from 42 cents per back to 82 cents per pack. It reveals to be seen how our reactionary legislature will dispose of his proposals.

According to WalletHub, we Alabamians or among the nation’s most generous givers. We are the 13th most charitable state when it comes to opening our personal purse strings. The ranking was based on a number of statistical categories, including percentage of donated income, volunteer rate, growth in giving, and median contribution to charity. Alabamians were third in the nation for percentage of donated income.

March 11, 2015:

The Common Core education topic is not only a hot political issue in Alabama, it has become a political football nationwide and it appears to be a hot potato in the looming 2016 GOP presidential contest.

As soon as Jeb Bush announced that he would “actively explore” a 2016 presidential bid, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, also a potential candidate and Tea Party Libertarian said, “We need leaders who will stand against Common Core.” The right wing candidates like Paul and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin have staked out positions against Common Core.

The more mainstream GOP aspirants and probably the only ones who have a chance to actually win the presidency are proponents. In fact, Jeb Bush, who would be the best possible candidate the GOP could pit against the favorite Hillary Clinton, has embraced Common Core since his days as governor of Florida. Indeed, the Common Core standards were policy introduced by his brother President George W Bush.

“Common Core” guidelines were first introduced by the National Governors Association and have been adopted by 46 states. While Governor of Florida, Jeb Bush became known as a chief executive who raised Florida’s education standards significantly. Since leaving the governorship of Florida, he has been an advocate for education reform, including Common Core as well as school choice.

Common Core has also been endorsed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. However, the right wing activists in the party see it as a federal intrusion into state and local control of education.

Speaking of our neighbor state to the south, Florida has become the nation’s third most populous state. Florida has surpassed New York in population to claim the third spot. California remains number one and Texas is number two.

This Sunbelt trend has been evolving for at least four decades. In fact, demographers predicted that Florida, Texas and California would evolve as the three most populous states years ago. It appears that “snowbirds” who fled the Rust Belt and colder environs of states like Michigan and New York decided to stay all year in the Sunshine State. In fact, the census statistics reveal that much of Florida’s growth has come from New Yorkers moving south. In 1950, New York’s population was five times that of Florida. Today, they have more people than the Empire State. This makes Florida even more important than ever in the presidential sweepstakes.

Florida has been the most important state in presidential contests for several decades. It has now become even more significant. Given the way we select our president under an Electoral College system, Florida is one of about 10 pivotal swing states that decides the presidency. This makes Florida ground zero for the 2016 presidential war. It is also one of the reasons that Jeb Bush would be the most formidable GOP contender.

Even though a lot of New Yorkers have moved to Florida, it appears the wealthiest citizens have remained in the city of New York. Forbes magazine recently revealed the wealthiest zip codes in America. Amazingly 10 of the top 20 wealthy zip codes in America were found in and around New York City. In fact, there were eight New York City area zip codes ahead of the famous Beverly Hills, California 90210.

Out of the top 25, New York had 13 enclaves that were the wealthiest pockets in all of America. California had nine. Florida had two and Colorado had two, including the ski resort of Aspen. The second 25 that made up the list of 50 wealthiest zip codes also were made up mostly of New York and California zip codes.

Out of the 50 top wealthiest zip codes, eighteen were in New York. However, California tops the list with an amazing 25 of the top 50 wealthiest zip codes in America. Therefore, 43 of the nation’s top 50 wealthiest areas in the country were in California and New York. These two states are also considered the two most liberal states in America. This gives new meaning to the term “limousine liberals.” No wonder democratic presidential candidates can raise so much cash.

By the way, there were no zip codes in Alabama, or for that matter the Deep South that made the list of wealthiest zip codes. Sorry about that Mountain Brook.


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