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Toll Increases for Public Investment, Affordable Housing Plans & Hate Crime Laws

Toll Increases for Public Investment, Affordable Housing Plans & Hate Crime Laws

Thursday, January 17th, 2008

http://www.progressivestates.org/dispatch

Conference Call

Conference Call Today: Dealing with the Foreclosure Crisis at the State Level

This Today at 1pm EST, Progressive States Network will be hosting a conference call focused on ways that states can help stop the increasing number of home foreclosures resulting from the subprime lending crisis.

Speakers include Assemblyman James Brennan (NY); Rep. Joe Mullery (MN); Dean Baker, Co-Director of Center for Economic Policy Research; Austin King, Director of Financial Justice, ACORN; Joel Barkin, Executive Director of Progressive States Network

To participate, RSVP at http://tinyurl.com/2tslc7

Growing-Economy

BY Nathan Newman

NJ: Raising Tolls & Keeping the Money for the Public - Unlike Privatization Ripoffs

After discussing the possibility of privatizing major state highways last year, New Jersey Governor John Corzine instead made a proposal earlier this month that called for significant increases in tolls that would provide nearly $30 billion to decrease state debt and invest in state transit projects. Unlike rhetorical promises around privatization money in other states, this plan actually laid out how money would get raised. 

Whatever one thinks about raising tolls as public policy, this is at least an honest proposal. The dirty secret of most privatization proposals is that the reason private companies are willing to pay billions to buy or lease highways is that they then have license to raise tolls massively, but that's not how it's sold to the public.  And the worse part of the deception of the public is that most of the toll increases then don't go back to public investments but instead line the pockets of the private investors. As we noted last year, while Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels boasted about getting $3.8 billion for leasing 157 miles of highway in that state, independent analysts estimated that the companies buying the lease will get to raise tolls and reap an additional $11.4 billion-- money the taxpayers could have kept if the state had raised tolls itself and held onto the roads as New Jersey is proposing.

There is no such thing as a free lunch, despite privatization being sold that way. Companies pay lots of money for privatized highways because they then get to raise tolls themselves and keep the profit, rather than reinvesting on behalf of the public. Gov. Corzine is arguing that New Jersey can raise $30 billion by keeping the increased toll money that other states like Indiana are giving away to private companies.   It's not a free lunch, but at least it's not a deceptive rip-off like the highway privatization scams being promoted around the country.

More Resources

Strengthening-Communities

BY J. Mijin Cha

Governors Push Broad Affordable Housing Plans

In his State of the State address, New York Governor Eliot Spitzer proposed a $400 million Housing Opportunity Fund to increase affordable housing around the state for working families and people with special needs. The Governor called it "the biggest housing initiative in a generation." Funding for affordable housing in New York has not increased for over a decade, even though the cost of housing has increased. The governor's proposed fund would triple the amount normally allocated for affordable housing and would be funded through the state's Mortgage Insurance Fund and proceeds from the state's mortgage tax.

Other governors are also pushing affordable housing initiatives. In New Jersey, Governor Corzine is sticking to his campaign promise of creating and preserving 100,000 affordable housing units in the next 10 years. Corzine has introduced proposals to provide an additional 1,500 families with access to affordable housing through an increase in the New Jersey State Rental Assistance Program and funding for a one-time capital expenditures to renovate, improve and expand bed capacity for shelters.

Vermont Governor James Douglas in his State of the State address proposed implementing new programs to boost affordable housing by making it easier to have new homes permitted and give tax incentives to first time homeowners who want to reinvest in redevelopment of the upper-floor space in commercial/office buildings in urban centers. Governor Jodi Rell announced an additional $10 million to support Connecticut's new Housing Trust Fund, which was signed into law in 2005 and is designed to create housing for low and moderate income families by providing loans and grants.

More Resources

Increasing-Democracy

BY Adam Thompson

New Jersey Raises Standards for Hate Crimes and Safe Schools Laws

With only 10 dissenting votes, the New Jersey Legislature has made the state's hate crimes and anti-bullying laws two of the strongest in the country. S2975 is notable for its unequivocal inclusion of transgender people in the state's hate crimes law, becoming the 12th state to do so, and for stronger anti-bullying measures in its safe schools law. 

The measure was hailed by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force which compared the state-level progress with Congress's refusal in 2007 to include transgender people in the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. In addition to adding transgender to the state's hate crimes law, the New Jersey measure requires at least two hours of training on hate crimes for all new police officers, requires schools to post and distribute their anti-bullying policies, creates a commission to study bullying in the state's schools and to make recommendations to a future legislature, and provides judges with additional penalty options for defendants convicted of hate crimes, such as anti-hate sensitivity training.

Legislation to strengthen hate crimes laws and include transgender people in anti-discrimination laws are being pursued in several states across the country, including Utah and OklahomaScottsdale, Arizona, also made news by extending workplace protections to gays, lesbians, bisexuals and trangender city employees.  Of course, these laws are greeted with heavy resistance from conservative groups.  Conservatives in California tried but failed to gather signatures to launch a ballot initiative to block a new new law extending anti-discrimination protections to public-school students based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.

More Resources

Research Roundup

Fourteen states face a total budget shortfall of at least $29 billion, with twelve others expecting budget problems, according to a state budget update from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. The brief outlines a number of options for those states and cautions against cuts in services that would undermine long-term economic investments and calls for greater federal support as part of an anti-recession package.

Immigration and the Wealth of States, a study by the conservative America's Majority organization, sharply challenges conventional wisdom in finding that states with high numbers of immigrants actually have higher rates of employment, less individual poverty and less crime than states with fewer immigrants. Median per capita income -- is $3,469 greater in the 19 high immigration jurisdictions than in the 32 other states, from 1999-to-2006, unemployment declined in the high immigration states, while increasing nationwide in 2006, and the total crime rate per 100,000 residents was lower in the high immigration jurisdictions than in the 32 other states.

States are facing increasing attacks on their ability to protect their citizens from corporate abuse, not just from the lawbreaking corporations themselves but from federal policy that preempts state law, a phenomena the Drum Major Institute analyzes in its new report, A Pro-Civil Justice Presidential Platform

The U.S. government's response to Hurricane Katrina not only was appalling-- it's actually violated internationally recognized human rights principles in its treatment of its citizens displaced by the tragedy, as a new report by the Institute for Southern Studies documents.  Not only did the government fall short during the tragedy, their continuing failures led to tens of thousands of residents being permanently displaced because of the lack of help owned them under those international obligations.

The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) has outlined a new policy framework for Charting Progress for Babies in Child Care and an analysis of results from Early Head Start programs working with younger children.   The studies all emphasize the need for broad help for families beyond the time when kids are formally in early child care situations.

People are living longer-- but much more so if they are rich, as the Economic Policy Institute shows in a new brief, since the "longevity gap" between the rich and poor is growing.  Where a male in the top half of earnings only lived 1.2 years longer than a man in the bottom half back in 1972, those in the richer half of the population were living 5.8 years longer by 2001.

In its first release from its 2007 Unheard Third Survey, the Community Service Society finds that low-income New Yorks are struggling to get health care, as employers drop coverage.  Most support health care for all residents, regardless of immigration status.


Please email us leads on good research at research@progressivestates.org

Resources

NJ: Raising Tolls & Keeping the Money for the Public - Unlike Privatization Ripoffs

Progressive States - Ripoff Privatizations-- And Why They Keep Happening

Progressive States - Congressional Leaders Warn Against State Highway Privatization

US PIRG - Road Privatization: Explaining the Trend, Assessing the Facts, and Protecting the Public

New Jersey PIRG - Save Our Turnpike

TexPIRG-  Six Public Interest Principles for Considering Private Toll Roads

Governors Push Broad Affordable Housing Plans

Progressive States Network - Affordable Housing as Smart Growth

New York - Housing Opportunity Fund

New Jersey - Rental Assistance Programs

Connecticut - Housing Trust Fund

New Jersey Raises Standards for Hate Crimes and Safe Schools Laws

National Gay and Lesbian Task Force - Scope of Explicitly Transgender-Inclusive Anti-Discrimination Laws

ACLU - Non-Discrimination Laws: State by State Information

Progressive States Network - Washington State Approves Domestic Partnerships - Leading Gay Rights Trend in 2007 Session

Masthead

The Stateside Dispatch is written and edited by:

Nathan Newman, Policy Director
J. Mijin Cha, Policy Specialist
Adam Thompson, Policy Specialist
John Bacino, Communications Associate

Please shoot us an email at dispatch@progressivestates.org if you have feedback, tips, suggestions, criticisms, or nominations for any of our sidebar features.

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