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Research Roundup: Following the Money and More

State Budget Deficits Are Not an Employee Compensation Problem - The Great Recession Is to Blame - This report by the Center of American Progress Action Fund looks at a common conservative explanation for state budget deficits - employee compensation levels - and concludes that public-sector pay is not the cause of state budget deficits and has not risen significantly in years. In fact, the analysis here concludes that total state public employee compensation, including wages and benefits, has slightly decreased over the past 20 years. The report also highlights the constructive, good-faith efforts of public-sector workers in dealing with state budget shortfalls, even as the right wing attempts to bust public employee unions in statehouses across the nation.

Following The Money 2011: How The 50 States Rate In Providing Online Access To Government Spending Data - USPIRG released this report that examines the extent to which states allow citizens to see government spending on subsidies and contracts, and, in effect, whether the state’s checkbook is made open to public scrutiny. The leading states provide information that is highly searchable, and include detailed data about government contracts, tax subsidies and grants to businesses. The authors find, “state governments across the country have been moving toward making their checkbooks transparent by creating online transparency portals... Forty states provide transparency websites that allow residents to access databases of government expenditures with ‘checkbook-level detail’... All states, including leading states, have many opportunities to improve their transparency websites. In the next year, state governments across the country should strive to improve government transparency and accountability online.”

Michigan Business Tax Cuts Would Be Paid for with Sharply Regressive Tax Hikes - An analysis by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy published by the Michigan League for Human Services (MILHS) studied the effect of proposed tax cuts for businesses in Michigan that would be paid for by eliminating the Earned Income Tax Credit and raising taxes on low-income families, concluding that “personal income tax increases contained in [Governor] Snyder’s plan would require low-income families to pay 1.1 percent more of their income in tax, while requiring the state’s wealthiest taxpayers to pay less than one-tenth that amount, relative to their income.”