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Responsible Contracting, Family Friendly Workplaces, Asset Buildng in Low-Income Communities, and More

The Road to Responsible Contracting: Lessons from States and Cities for Ensuring That Federal Contracting Delivers Good Jobs and Quality Services - This National Employment Law Project study highlights the experiences of cities and states with a range of "responsible contracting" policies.  By prioritize purchasing from contractors that provide living wages and benefits and comply with workplace, tax and other laws, states and cities have found that this approach not only creates better jobs, but also attracts a stronger pool of contractors, resulting in better quality highways and bridges, and more reliable security and maintenance services.  At the same time, it minimizes the hidden costs to taxpayers that result when employers pay low wages.

Family-Friendly Workplaces: Do Unions Make a Difference? - In most areas unionized workers receive more generous family-friendly benefits than their non-unionized counterparts, according to this report by the Labor Project for Working Families.  For example, 46% of unionized workers receive full pay while on family leave compared to just 29% of non-unionized workers, unionized workers have more flexibility in using paid sick days to care for a sick child, and unionized workplaces are five times as likely to pay insurance premiums for the whole family.  Similarly, unionized workplace provide more flexible work arrangements, child care benefits and better enforcement of other laws like FMLA.

Asset Building in Low-Income Communities of Color, Part 2 - The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies released its findings from the second year of its initiative studying what works to enable low-income communities to accumulate assets.  The report examines asset building in 10 states with a low-ranking on asset accumulation - most with sizable communities of color - and compares these findings with those for states with high rankings on asset building for low-income people.  

Reports on States' Fiscal Crises:

  • New Fiscal Year Brings No Relief From Unprecedented State Budget Problems - At least 48 states have addressed or still face shortfalls in their budgets for fiscal year 2010 totaling $165 billion — or almost one-quarter of state budgets, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.  Four states — Arizona, Connecticut, Michigan, and Pennsylvania — have not yet adopted budgets for 2010.   In addition, new shortfalls have opened up in at least 13 of the states that have adopted budgets.
  • Facing Deficits, More States Considering Taxing Services - As detailed by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, states’ traditional sales tax base, which consists largely of purchases of physical goods, fell from 39% of household consumption in 1970 to 32% in 2007, even as most states continue to apply their sales tax to less than one-third of 168 potentially taxable services, according to the Federation of Tax Administrators. By broadening the sales tax base to services, states could increase revenue and make the sales tax fairer.

Jobs and Recovery:

  • Rebuilding America: A Policy Framework for Investment in Energy Efficiency Retrofits - Deep building retrofits can cut energy use by 20% to 40% with proven techniques and off-the-shelf technologies and can pay for themselves from the energy they save, according to this Center for American Progress study.  Energy efficiency retrofits also create good local construction jobs across the country at a time when well over a million construction workers sit idle in a sagging housing market.
  • More than 500 days of recession - New numbers on economic growth show less decline in the last quarter compared to the beginning of the year, acording to the Economic Policy Institute, giving hope that recovery funds are helping the economy turn the corner.  ARRA contributed roughly 3% to annualized growth rates in the second quarter, but with even more public relief and investments, the U.S. economy could do much better.

A Forgotten Crisis?: Coverage of post-Katrina Gulf Coast Poverty since 2005- Highlighting the short attention span of the nation in dealing with poverty and disasters, among the nation's top 25 newspapers, the study by Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity finds a dramatic 90% decrease in coverage of poverty in Gulf Coast communities.