November 17, 2017

Differences in House and Senate Tax Bills in 1 Chart

At CNSNews.com today, Adam Michel, a policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation, compares the House and Senate versions of the current Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

In his lede, Michel writes, "The House has now passed its version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The Senate is still working on the final details of its reform package. The Senate plan improves on the House bill in many places and misses important opportunities elsewhere."

He provides the following chart:

  

Growls readers concerned about the changes being contemplated in this latest tax reform legislation are encouraged to engage their members of Congress. Contact information is available at the Library of Congress' Congress.gov. Taxpayers living in Virginia's Arlington County can contact:

  • Senator Mark Warner (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-2023
  • Senator Tim Kaine (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-4024
  • Representative Don Beyer (D) -- write to him or call (202) 225-4376

Be sure to ask for a written response. And tell them ACTA sent you.

November 16, 2017

Arlington County's Employee Turnover Rate States at 6.1%

In preparing to adopt the FY 2018 budget last winter, one County Board member requested a summary "for the past 5 years (plus FY 2017 to date) of the attrition by year for selected departments. Specifically, he asked for the number of staff in the department, percentage of the department, and the reason for the departure (either retirement or leaving for another job).

The personnel department (i.e., the Human Resources Department, HRD) provided the response, titled, "Attrition Data for Multiple Departments," Follow-up Topic Number B-7. HRD provided the following explanation to their data tables:

"The tables on the following pages summarize turnover for the past five years. It is important to note that the “staff count” are the employees in place as of June 30th of each year, not the authorized fte’s for the departments. The attrition totals, percentages, and employee counts are the total for the fiscal year.

"Other than retirement, employee reasons for termination include new opportunities, relocation, and return to school. Exact numbers not available for the non-retirement reasons. Attrition, typically called turnover, measures the rate at which employees leave an organization. The industry standard is to base the rate for a year on actual employee count at a point in time."

For the almost 5 2/3 years beginning with FY 2012, the attrition, or turnover rate, for employee departures that were NOT due to retirement was 6.1%. By department, the turnover rates were:

  • CPHD -- 7.0%
  • DES -- 6.0%
  • DHS -- 7.4%
  • DPR -- 4.4%
  • DTS -- 5.2%
  • FIR -- 3.3%
  • POL -- 4.1%

By comparison, Fairfax County's FY 2017 proposed budget makes the following observation (Volume 1, page 30):

"A critical area that continues to be monitored and addressed is “Permanent Employee Turnover Rate,” which decreased from 10.1 percent in FY 2005 to 3.89 percent in FY 2014, which clearly underscores the County’s efforts to recruit, retain and reward high performing staff." (emphasis added)

The county continued in the budget document by pointing out, "The County’s challenge continues to be to find ways to attract and retain highly qualified staff in a competitive job market."

For more information on employee turnover, see the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics, which performs a job openings and labor turnover survey (JOLTS), and "is currently pursuing research on the number of job openings, hires, and separations by firm size. These estimates may help to better explain some of the internal dynamics of the labor market."

The latest BLS economic news release, dated November 7, 2017, about the job openings and labor turnover summary (JOLTS) is available. It specifically notes, "Within separations, the quits rate and the layoffs and discharges rate were little changed at 2.2 percent and 1.2 percent, respectively."

As a recent article last month in The Balance points out, the cost of employee turnover can be considerable.

Growls readers concerned about Arlington County's employee turnover rate are encouraged to engage the Arlington County Board. Take a couple of minutes to make your views known to the Arlington County Board. Just click-on the link below:

  • Call the County Board office at (703) 228-3130

And tell them ACTA sent you.

November 15, 2017

Out-of-Control Public Art Spending? What else is new?

 In his Editor's Notebook blog today, Scott McCaffrey takes Arlington County poohbahs to task for its "out of control public art."

Here are the for details:

"It would take more time than I have, or readers are willing to set aside, to detail the latest public-art contretemps the Arlington County government is wading through.

"The details are found in Item #24 of the Arlington County Board’s meeting set for Saturday, in which $200,000 will be taken from a fund designed for public improvements in Rosslyn and transferred to support a public-art project that is part of JBG Co.’s Central Place development.

"Originally, the whole shebang wasn’t going to cost the gub’mint anything – JBG was slated to pay $750,000 into the government’s public-arts fund, which presumably would have covered the cost of any project local officials wanted to put in place there. But now, with the cost of the proposal up to nearly $1.3 million (!), the county government is on the hook for part of the extra share.

"Funny how that works.

"County poobahs like to say that there is “no net taxpayer support” for projects like these, since the fund being tapped was paid into by previous developer contributions. I will counter with this: Just because taxpayers don’t fund it directly doesn’t mean it doesn’t have an impact on us down the road. That $200,000 going to this project is $200,000 that could have been spent on something else. It is all government funds, and as Homer Simpson once said on a different topic: “red M&Ms, green M&Ms: they all end up the same color in the end.”)

"From the perspective of an outsider, it appears to be another example of “mission creep” in the county government’s public-arts efforts, which over the years have scored as many misses as hits in providing something nice for the public."

We've growled several times over the years about the county's public art program, most recently on February 15, 2004 after the grand poohbahs flushed between $2.0 million and $3.0 million at the sewage treatment plant. In that Growls, we gave the County Manager a "thump on the head" for suggesting that amount of taxpayer dollars was "beyond a basic utilitarian approach." Does it seem like the inmates are running the public art program? It sure seems like it.

If your looking for additional details about this daffy deal, they are in the 17-page County Manager's report to the County Board, and is part of the so-called Consent Agenda (Agenda Item #24, November 18, 2017).

Growls readers are encouraged to engage the Arlington County Board with your concerns about the out of control public art program. Take a couple of minutes to make your views known to the Arlington County Board. Just click-on the link below:

  • Call the County Board office at (703) 228-3130

And tell them ACTA sent you.

November 14, 2017

Growing Medicaid Enrollment & Increased Dependency?

The Washington Free Beacon's Ali Meyer reported today on a new study from the Foundation for Government Accountability, which says, "skyrocketing Medicaid enrollment (is) leading to increased government dependency." The Free Beacon said the "number of able-bodied adults on Medicaid has increased four-fold since 2000, (bu) only 16 percent of Medicaid enrollees work."

According to Meyer:

"A massive surge in Medicaid enrollment is leading to an increase in government dependency and crowding out funding for those vulnerable individuals who truly need the program, according to a report from the Foundation for Government Accountability.

"In 2000, there were 34 million Americans enrolled in the Medicaid program. Next year that number is projected to more than double to 75 million. Most of the growth in this program is due to an increasing number of able-bodied adults applying for the program. In 2000, there were fewer than 7 million able-bodied adults on Medicaid. Now that number has quadrupled to 28 million able-bodied adults on the program.

"The report attributes skyrocketing Medicaid enrollment over the last two decades to states increasing eligibility for able-bodied adults and Obamacare's Medicaid expansion, which added millions of able-bodied adults to the program.

"Unlike other welfare programs that have work requirements to stay in the program, the report says that Medicaid enrollees are not held to the same standard.

"Medicaid was designed as a safety net for the truly vulnerable—the elderly and individuals with disabilities," the foundation explains. "Because these groups were generally either not working age or had limited work capacity due to their disabilities, work requirements and time limits were never included in the Medicaid program. But over time, the program has grown to cover new groups, changing the fabric of the program and creating new challenges for policymakers and enrollees alike."

"The report finds that only 16 percent of those enrolled in Medicaid work full-time for the duration of the year. More than half—52 percent—do not work at all, and 32 percent of Medicaid enrollees work part-time or for part of the year.

"Despite the fact that Medicaid's able-bodied adults have no physical disabilities keeping them from pursuing gainful employment, very few actually work full-time jobs," the report states. "According to the Census Bureau, most non-disabled adults on Medicaid do not work at all."

"In some states, the percentage of those enrolled in Medicaid that are not holding a job are even higher. For example, in Nevada, 60 percent of Medicaid enrollees are not working. In New Hampshire, 58 percent are not working. And in Ohio, 57 percent are not working."

Meyer's article is worth reading in its entirety.

According to the April 5, 2017 Richmond Times-Dispatch, "Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s latest bid to expand Virginia’s Medicaid program died on a party-line vote in the House of Delegates on Wednesday."  However, based upon the results of last Tuesday's Virginia election results, look for Governor-elect Northam and Democrats in the General Assembly to make another go at expanding Medicaid in Virginia.

Growls readers concerned about the growing dependency on government are are encouraged to engage their members of Congress. Contact information is available at the Library of Congress' Congress.gov. Taxpayers living in Virginia's Arlington County can contact:

  • Senator Mark Warner (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-2023
  • Senator Tim Kaine (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-4024
  • Representative Don Beyer (D) -- write to him or call (202) 225-4376

To write to your elected representatives in Richmond, see our November 7, Growls.

lAnd ask for a written response. And tell them ACTA sent you.

November 13, 2017

Aquatics Center Decision due by End of Month

The Arlington Sun Gazette's Scott McCaffrey reported today that "Arlington County Board members on Nov. 28 are slated to formally ratify a staff decision on the design of the Long Bridge Park aquatics and fitness complex."

McCaffrey continued his report, writing:

"The actual design to be acted upon, however, remains to be determined, at least at the moment.

"As of press time, results of work by the staff committee that will select the winning design from among four entrants had not been made public.

"The four consortiums vying for the contract to build the $55 million facility in Crystal City: Christman/HOK; Coakley Williams/Page;Forrester/EYP; and Hess/VMDO.

"The project is scaled back considerably from an early effort, which was scrapped after bids came in well above the government’s ability to fund them and questions were raised about the operating subsidies that would be required.

"In 2016, the effort was resuscitated, but with lowered expectations.

"If all goes according to plan – and given the history of the project, who knows? – design work on the aquatics/fitness center will be completed and construction started in 2018, with completion set for late 2020 or early 2021"

A few of our thoughts about the Long Bridge Aquatics & Fitness Center are contained in video we posted on Saturday -- see here.

A county press release, dated October 18, 2017,  provides greater detail on the four design concepts that were developed for Long Bridge Park. It provided three talking points:

  • Long Bridge Aquatics & Fitness Center and park expansion
  • Based on years of community interaction; community input invited through Oct. 29
  • Four nationally recognized design and construction firms team up for Design-Build contract

Although the press release essentially set a cut-off date of October 29, 2017 for community input, Growls encourage taxpayers with continuing concerns about the aquatics center to take a few minutes to make your views known to the Arlington County Board. Just click-on the link below:

  • Call the County Board office at (703) 228-3130

And tell them ACTA sent you.

November 12, 2017

A Though about Western Values

"Intellectual elites argue that different cultures and their values are morally equivalent. That's ludicrous. Western culture and values are superior to all others. I have a few questions for those who'd claim that such a statement is untrue or smacks of racism and Eurocentrism. Is forcible female genital mutilation, as practiced in nearly 30 sub-Saharan African and Middle Eastern countries, a morally equivalent cultural value? Slavery is practiced in Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Chad and Sudan; is it morally equivalent? In most of the Middle East, there are numerous limitations placed on women, such as prohibitions on driving, employment and education. Under Islamic law, in some countries, female adulterers face death by stoning. Thieves face the punishment of having their hands severed. Homosexuality is a crime punishable by death in some countries. Are these cultural values morally equivalent, superior or inferior to Western values?"

~ Walter E. Williams

Source: his July 26, 2017, "Western Values are Superior," posted at Townhall.com.

                                         - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

"Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Dr. Walter E. Williams holds a B.A. in economics from California State University, Los Angeles, and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in economics from UCLA. He also holds a Doctor of Humane Letters from Virginia Union University and Grove City College, Doctor of Laws from Washington and Jefferson College and Doctor Honoris Causa en Ciencias Sociales from Universidad Francisco Marroquin, in Guatemala, where he is also Professor Honorario.

"Dr. Williams has served on the faculty of George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics, since 1980; from 1995 to 2001, he served as department chairman. He has also served on the faculties of Los Angeles City College, California State University Los Angeles, and Temple University in Philadelphia, and Grove City College, Grove City, Pa." (his biographical sketch)

November 11, 2017

A Discussion of the Long Bridge Aquatics & Fitness Center

A video documentary describing issues with Arlington County's Long Bridge Aquatics & Fitness Center has emerged on YouTube for your viewing enjoyment.  Just click-on the following link:

We hope you enjoyed the thoughtful and rational discussion of issues relating to Arlington County's proposed Long Bridge Aquatics & Fitness Center.

November 2017
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Items in Growls are written by individual ACTA members and do not necessarily represent the views of the Arlington County Taxpayers Association, Inc. Please send comments about Growls to The Growl Meister