A new study is pouring cold beer on Seattle’s soda tax. The study, published in the peer-reviewed journal PLoS ONE, reveals that since the city I call home adopted a soda tax in 2018, residents have swapped out soda and replaced that soda with beer. Pointedly, the study says Seattle’s soda tax “induced” consumers to buy more beer.
“The good people of Seattle responded to a tax on sugary drinks by buying more beer,” Christopher Snowdon, director of Lifestyle Economics at the Institute of Economic Affairs and a leading critic of the nanny state, tweeted after the study’s release.
The PLoS study, by University of Illinois-Chicago researchers Lisa M. Powell and Julien Lader, compared sales of beer in Seattle both before and since adoption of the soda tax with comparable sales in nearby Portland, Oregon, which has no soda tax.
A requirement to have paid into the system is characteristic of a social insurance program, and the 10 year contribution requirement is essentially the same as the eligibility requirement for Old Age benefits in Social Security. However, true social insurance programs pay out benefits to those eligible regardless of residence — again, once you’ve paid into Social Security long enough to have earned your benefit, you can collect regardless of where you live, even if you have moved abroad. In fact, even noncitizens who worked in the United States long enough to have accumulated sufficient Social Security credits, can receive benefits after having moved back to their home countries. What’s more, many social insurance systems provide some sort of refund mechanism for workers who do not accumulate enough contribution years to be eligible.
And this hybrid system will likely prove to be unsustainable politically. Even if ordinary Washingtonians are not well-versed in social insurance concepts and theories, it will not sit right with them that those who retire with 10 years of payroll taxes have “earned” their benefits but those with 9 years have not, and, likewise, that those who have “earned” benefits would lose those “earned” benefits merely by moving out of state. How precisely this will play out over the long term remains to be seen, but the new bills are not likely to be the end of the story.
In any case, these problems will not be easy to remedy.
Five Washington communities—Spokane, Yakima, Spokane Valley, Granger, and Battle Ground—have passed resolutions in recent weeks pledging to outlaw income taxes at the local level if the state adopts income or capital gains taxes. More jurisdictions are promising to follow suit. Local officials are intent on sending the state a message. “Small businesses are the backbone of our local, regional, state, and national economy and it is imperative that the city not put unnecessary hurdles in the way of their success,” Battle Ground’s resolution declared. “Citizens want good government that is fiscally responsible,” Republican state representative Chris Corry argued at a hearing in Yakima. “Putting an income tax ban locally shows a commitment to being fiscally responsible.”
Washington lacks an income tax thanks to a 1932 state Supreme Court ruling that interpreted the state constitution as prohibiting the levy. Over the years, voters have rejected ten attempts to amend the constitution to institute an income tax. The last vote was in 2010, when nearly 65 percent of voters gave a thumbs-down to a ballot initiative heavily supported by the state’s public-sector unions and Bill Gates Sr. (Then-Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos helped lead the opposition.)
NEW YORK (AP) — A new analysis of blood samples from 24,000 Americans taken early last year is the latest and largest study to suggest that the new coronavirus popped up in the U.S. in December 2019 — weeks before cases were first recognized by health officials.
The analysis is not definitive, and some experts remain skeptical, but federal health officials are increasingly accepting a timeline in which small numbers of COVID-19 infections may have occurred in the U.S. before the world ever became aware of a dangerous new virus erupting in China.
The pandemic coronavirus emerged in Wuhan, China in late 2019. Officially, the first U.S. infection to be identified was a traveler — a Washington state man who returned from Wuhan on Jan. 15 and sought help at a clinic on Jan. 19.
CDC officials initially said the spark that started the U.S. outbreak arrived during a three-week window from mid-January to early February. But research since then — including some done by the CDC — has suggested a small number of infections occurred earlier.
Washington State’s Aging and Long-Term Support Administration, which falls under the Department of Social and Health Services, directed nursing homes to accept COVID-positive patients that were no longer needing “acute care” in a hospital. The goal was to “transition” those patients to “alternative settings”
“Our primary strategy to create capacity in acute care hospitals is working with participating patients and families to transition to nursing homes,” a March 20, 2020 memo stated. “Once in the nursing home, Home and Community Services staff will work the eligible individual and their family to transition to a permanent home and community-based setting of their choice.”
In exchange for taking in those patients, nursing home facilities would receive an additional $100 Medicare add-on for up to six months, The Post Millennial. That funding was part of two Medicaid waivers the state filed.
At least 235 brick-and-mortar businesses have closed permanently in D.C. since the first known coronavirus case was reported on March 7, 2020, with 100 more shuttered temporarily, a count by DCist/WAMU found. (The status of another 40 is unknown.)
As of December, more than 36,000 residents were unemployed — a 77% increase over the prior year. Downtown D.C., once an economic engine that contributed nearly 16% of the city’s tax revenue in 2019, is today an effigy of its former self. At night, the bars and restaurants that propelled so much of D.C.’s economic growth seem funereal without scores of intoxicated revelers streaming through the doors and swiping their credit cards.
In the months leading up to the first COVID-19 vaccine shipments, Washington state health officials agonized over which residents should be vaccinated before others. They surveyed 18,000 people and convened focus groups, debating race, age and essential occupations.
But unlike some other states, the state Department of Health (DOH) neglected to plan for basic logistics that would have allowed for quick vaccination of those most vulnerable to the disease.
They didn’t enlist the National Guard. They didn’t centralize vaccine appointments. Key scheduling and reporting software arrived late. Providers were given vials but no strategy to process patients.
The Washington state Legislature, which has proposed legislation in the past to tackle issues such as data privacy and the use of facial recognition tech, is now reviewing a bill that would regulate the use of “automated decision systems” and AI technology within state government.
According to the bill, these systems use algorithms to analyze data to help make or support decisions that could result in discrimination against different groups or make decisions that could negatively impact constitutional or legal rights.
As a result, Senate Bill 5116 aims to regulate these systems to prevent discrimination and ban government agencies from using AI tech to profile individuals in public areas.
Budgetary pressures vary greatly, despite calls for more federal aid in general and tax hikes in some locales. In New York, state revenue collected from April through December 2020 was 4.1% lower than in the year-earlier period, according to data from the Urban Institute think tank.
In New Jersey, the drop was 2.4%. With tax revenue outperforming earlier projections, Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy on Tuesday proposed making a full payment to the state’s pension system for the first time since 1996. California has done even better, with revenue collections growing 1.2%.
While a governor can call on lawmakers to raise taxes, the odds of success for the various proposals depend partly on which parties control state legislative chambers. Additionally, Democrats in Congress have pushed to include money for cities and states in an economic-recovery package, which could shift the equation.
Thought leaders in Connecticut are making waves with progressive revenue solutions of their own. Connecticut Voices for Children released a major report in December, highlighting several tax policy options with the potential to “ensure that Connecticut’s tax system works to advance economic justice rather than continue to contribute to economic injustice.” Those options include: income tax increases on households with incomes over $500,000 ($1 million for couples) that could raise $504 million to $1.72 billion per year; estate tax improvements to reverse cuts and raise $108-162 million per year; a surcharge on capital gains and other similar income to raise $167-334 million per year; and a mansion tax on homes valued over $1.5 million that could raise $331-663 million. These ideas are already being reflected in bills to be considered by lawmakers this year.
Author(s): Dylan Grundman O’Neill
Publication Date: 4 February 2021
Publication Site: Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy
Washington State’s COVID death numbers could be inflated as much as twenty percent according to a new study by the Freedom Foundation, based on an analysis of death certificates.
In May, The Freedom Foundation, an Olympia based think tank, released a report which revealed that the Washington Department of Health was recording every death in which the deceased previously tested positive for the virus as a COVID death. At the time, the Freedom Foundation estimated that COVID deaths in the state were being inflated by as much as thirteen percent by deaths from other causes including even gun shots victims. After a review of the death certificates, that number could now be as high as twenty percent of all COVID deaths in Washington through September.