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Tax Law

State Net Capitol Journal – November 9, 2015; Alaska Governor Proposes Permanent Fund Restructuring

Budget & Taxes

AK Gov Proposes Permanent Fund Restructuring

With a sharp drop in oil prices and declining production having blown a $3-billion hole in his state’s budget, Alaska Gov. Bill Walker (I) has proposed a plan to convert the state’s Permanent Fund into a “sovereign wealth fund” - a government-owned investment fund - to better insulate state government from swings in oil revenues.

Under the state’s current system oil revenues are deposited directly into the general fund, allowing lawmakers to boost spending in good years but also forcing them to cut spending when revenues drop.

“You’re jerking your economy around like a seesaw based on oil prices,” said Richards. “You want to get to the point where you can have a stable economy that doesn’t ride the boom-and-bust cycles of the oil markets.”

The governor’s plan would make the Permanent Fund function like an endowment, generating more consistent annual payments for state government but also likely reducing the dividend checks Alaska residents receive from the fund each year from the current average of about $1,400 to around $1,000.

Although leeriness about laying a finger on Alaskans’ dividends has doomed similar proposals in the Legislature over the past two decades, many lawmakers said Walker’s plan was worth considering.

“I’m willing to approach this with an open mind and I look forward to vetting it through the legislative process,” said Rep. Bryce Edgmon (D), who caucuses with the House’s Republican majority. (ALASKA DISPATCH NEWS [ANCHORAGE], LEXISNEXIS STATE NET)

States Take On Obesity For Fiscal Reasons

Last month, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) launched a 10-year plan to combat obesity in his state that includes everything from raising nutritional standards in public schools to developing more pedestrian-friendly communities and making healthy foods more accessible. And governors in Georgia, New York, and Tennessee have announced plans to combat obesity among their residents as well.

One of the main reasons for those efforts is financial. Obesity-related health problems, including diabetes, high blood pressure and cancer, cost the nation $147 billion to $210 billion each year, according to the State of Obesity, a project of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Trust for America’s Health, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy and research group. In addition, diminished work productivity and absenteeism associated with obesity costs the nation $4.3 billion per year, according to the report. And the number of American adults with a body mass index of 30 or higher, classifying them as obese, has risen 50 percent since 1990.

“I’m a conservative,” said Gov. Hutchinson. “I’m concerned about tax dollars as well as good health. There’s a consequence to the taxpayer because of bad health habits.” (STATELINE.ORG)

Budgets In Brief - November 9 2015

MI passes transportation funding legislation: MICHIGAN’s House and Senate narrowly passed a $1.2 billion road-funding package that will cost the state’s motorists about $20 more to register their vehicles and $1.17 more to fill their cars’ gas tanks. Gov. Rick Snyder (R), who called the legislation “the largest investment in transportation over the last 50 years in terms of revenues coming in for roads,” is expected to sign the bills into law (DETROIT FREE PRESS) * St Louis offers sweet stadium deal: In the hope of keeping an NFL team in St. Louis, the office of Mayor Francis Slay has offered to turn over about two-thirds of the city tax revenue generated by a new $1-billion riverfront stadium to the team that plays there. Mayoral staffers acknowledged that the remaining revenue would not be enough to cover stadium expenses year in and year out, but they said the millions in worker payroll taxes and city permit fees generated by the stadium would help cover shortages in down times (ST LOUIS POST-DISPATCH). * Medicaid spending ‘runaway train’ in NM: Top NEW MEXICO Human Services Department officials told state lawmakers last week they will need nearly $1 billion next year to cover the state’s share of Medicaid, which one lawmaker described as a “runaway train” (ALBUQUERQUE JOURNAL).

- Compiled by KOREY CLARK

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