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Privatization Update: Recent News from across the Country

As states face mounting deficits, corporate lobbyists have been promoting the idea that privatization of public services and assets is a free lunch -- services can be delivered more cheaply than by public employees and public assets like highways can be sold or leased for a hefty return to the taxpayer.  As PSN has detailed in our December 2007 report Privatizing in the Dark: The Pitfalls of Privatization & Why Budget Disclosure is Needed, the promises of privatization too often yield to a reality of lost money and degraded services, weak oversight and lost expertise, assets sold off for short-term gains but long-term loss, lost democratic accountability, and the corruption of the political process.

Taking Action on Job Creation: Invest Michigan! Fund

In the past few years states have become increasingly unwillingly torely on the chance that volatile global investment markets will chooseto invest in their local communities. Instead, states are choosing todirectly invest themselves in local emerging opportunities.  The greatadvantage of direct investment, instead of simply raiding the statetreasury and giving away corporate welfare, is that by making directinvestment in local businesses, states create a financial stake infirms.  If these businesses are successful, they will return equity tothe tax payers that can be reinvested in other projects.  According to the National Association of Seed and Venture Fund, as of 2006, all but six states had state venture capital funds.

Judicial Elections Public Financing: Balancing Independent Courts and Voter Choice

Once the sleepy backwater of electoral politics, judicial elections have recently become a battleground where right wing and corporate groups spend large sums to fill the courts with jurists who will support their interests.  This is perhaps the most troubling example of money corrupting our politics, because instead of pay-to-play politics it gives us pay-to-win justice.  The independence of the judiciary simply cannot be maintained in an environment where jurists are competing for votes in high-priced, bare-knuckle political brawls. 

Left in the Cold — Utility Shut-Offs and State Responses

Working families struggling to make utility payments are feeling the chill as companies shut off their gas and electricity. Shut-offs are up across dozens of states, particularly Michigan where unemployment is high, with a 22 percent increase in the number of families left without heat or electricity. The state's Heating and Warmth Fund, which helps those in need pay delinquent heating bills, has seen a record 42 percent increase in people applying for heating payment assistance.

Left in the Cold — Utility Shut-Offs and State Responses

Working families struggling to make utility payments are feeling the chill as companies shut off their gas and electricity. Shut-offs are up across dozens of states, particularly Michigan where unemployment is high, with a 22 percent increase in the number of families left without heat or electricity. The state's Heating and Warmth Fund, which helps those in need pay delinquent heating bills, has seen a record 42 percent increase in people applying for heating payment assistance.

Making College Affordable for All

The benefits of a post-secondary degree are plentiful.  For example, an employee with a four year college degree earns 60 percent more than a worker with only a high school diploma. Paying for college, however, has become a daunting task and strain for many American students and families.  The cost of higher education across the country is rapidly increasing, at almost double the rate of inflation, outpacing increases in financial aid and many families ability to pay.  The combination of these factors result in too many students being unable to earn or complete their degrees due to financial constraints.

Building a Better Measure of Poverty Rates

States don't really know how many of their residents are poor.  The current federal poverty measure uses a forty-year old, widely criticized methodology.  It neither accounts for many of the resources poor families receive from the government, such as Food Stamps and the EITC, nor does it, conversely, factor in many additional expenses the poor face that are not accounted for in the federal measure, such as transportation costs, child care and local costs of living.