Why It’s Time for States to Raise Their Tobacco Taxes

Link: https://www.governing.com/now/Why-Its-Time-for-States-to-Raise-Their-Tobacco-Taxes.html


In the face of the pandemic, states across the geographic and political spectrum — including Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, New Mexico and New York — are actively considering tobacco tax increases during their legislative sessions. Last month, a bipartisan supermajority in the Maryland Legislature moved to increase the state’s cigarette tax by $1.75 per pack, the first increase in nearly a decade, and to establish a tax on e-cigarettes to fund tobacco cessation and health programs.

The growing legislative momentum comes after voters in Colorado and Oregon approved tobacco tax increases in ballot measures last November. Colorado, which had not raised tobacco taxes in 16 years, will collect an estimated $175 million in revenue during the 2021-22 budget year for tobacco cessation and health programs. In Oregon, higher tobacco taxes will generate an estimated $160 million per year and help to fund the care of people with mental illnesses and other conditions.


Publication Date: 15 March 2021

Publication Site: Governing

Our View: Federal stimulus checks should not increase state taxes

Link: https://www.bluemountaineagle.com/coronavirus/our-view-federal-stimulus-checks-should-not-increase-state-taxes/article_5efb3986-7ae2-11eb-9c94-e30cd7275f13.html


The federal stimulus checks helped a lot of Oregonians out when they needed it. And it is also going to help out Oregon government — about $100 million in federal stimulus payments is going to wind up in the state treasury.

The federal government is not taxing the stimulus payments. In Oregon, they are not taxed as income, either. But the payments can impact the federal tax calculations used on your Oregon income tax. And so the stimulus payment may mean you owe state tax on more of your income and wind up paying more taxes or get a reduced refund.

Does that sound right to you? The stimulus checks sure seemed to be aimed at helping individuals, not helping state government.

Author(s): Editorial board

Publication Date: 2 March 2021

Publication Site: Blue Mountain Eagle

Tensions over vaccine equity pit rural against urban America

Link: https://nypost.com/2021/03/01/tensions-over-vaccine-equity-pit-rural-against-urban-america/


The U.S. vaccine campaign has heightened tensions between rural and urban America, where from Oregon to Tennessee to upstate New York complaints are surfacing of a real — or perceived — inequity in vaccine allocation.

In some cases, recriminations over how scarce vaccines are distributed have taken on partisan tones, with rural Republican lawmakers in Democrat-led states complaining of “picking winners and losers,” and urbanites traveling hours to rural GOP-leaning communities to score COVID-19 shots when there are none in their city.

In Oregon, state GOP lawmakers walked out of a Legislative session last week over the Democratic governor’s vaccine plans, citing rural vaccine distribution among their concerns. In upstate New York, public health officials in rural counties have complained of disparities in vaccine allocation and in North Carolina, rural lawmakers say too many doses were going to mass vaccine centers in big cities.

Author(s): Associated Press

Publication Date: 1 March 2021

Publication Site: NY Post

Finicky COVID-19 vaccines raise the stakes of power outages

Link: https://www.theverge.com/science/2021/2/16/22285394/covid-vaccine-power-outage-freezer?mc_cid=cd30d3af2c&mc_eid=983bcf5922


Winter storms paralyzing the United States have left millions without power and sent health officials scrambling to protect freezers full of COVID-19 vaccines, which have to be kept at extremely low temperatures or risk going bad.

Rolling blackouts through Texas took out at least one set of freezers full of the Moderna vaccine; 5,000 doses were sent to a university, a jail, and a handful of hospitals before they expired. The Oregon Health Authority is moving vaccines to places with power, although the agency isn’t disclosing which storage sites have their systems down. As part of its storm preparations, Kentucky made sure places holding COVID-19 vaccines had contingency plans.

Author(s): Nicole Wetsman

Publication Date: 16 February 2021

Publication Site: the Verge

States push ahead on private-sector initiatives

Link: https://www.pionline.com/retirement-plans/states-push-ahead-private-sector-initiatives


To date, 12 states and Seattle have enacted retirement savings programs for private-sector workers. They include OregonSaves with more than 90,000 funded accounts and $92 million in assets, the Illinois Secure Choice retirement savings program with $52.6 million and 82,852 funded accounts, and the $38 million CalSavers Retirement Savings Program that as of February had enrolled 274,024 participants, with another enrollment phase coming up.

The predominant model is an auto IRA, in which employer participation is required if no plan is already offered. Other options are a voluntary payroll deduction Roth IRA, a multiple employer plan, and a service provider marketplace, or a hybrid.

Author(s): Hazel Bradford

Publication Date: 22 February 2021

Publication Site: Pensions & Investments

Oregon Hospitals Didn’t Have Shortages. So Why Were Disabled People Denied Care?

Link: https://www.npr.org/2020/12/21/946292119/oregon-hospitals-didnt-have-shortages-so-why-were-disabled-people-denied-care


The changes in Oregon echoed the evolution of guidelines in other states. State and national disability groups had brought complaints to the Office for Civil Rights at the federal Department of Health and Human Services, the agency that enforces anti-discrimination laws in health care.


There was one lingering question in all of these cases: Why was care rationed to people with disabilities at a time when Oregon’s hospitals were not overcrowded, when there were no shortages of treatment?

Author: Joseph Shapiro

Publication Date: 21 December 2020

Publication Site: NPR