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    The Week in Public Finance: States Intent on Taxing Big Pharma Over the Opioid Crisis

    Lawmakers want to raise taxes on pharmaceutical companies to help pay for the cost of the opioid crisis. But success has been elusive.
    BY  OCTOBER 5, 2018

    Pills being dispensed.



    • Minnesota's "penny a pill" bill failed in the state legislature after heavy lobbying removed a key provision. The state plans to try again in 2019.
    • An additional 10 states all tried and failed to pass opioid taxes this session. Lawmakers in those states say they will try again nex year.
    • Only New York has successfully passed legislation, but the new law is on hold thanks to a lawsuit. 

    States haven't been very successful at taxing drug companies to help pay for the opioid crisis. But that won’t stop them from trying again next year.

    Minnesota State Rep. Dave Baker, a Republican who sponsored a failed “penny a pill” bill during this year's session, has said that he plans on a different focus in 2019: pharmaceutical licensing reform. Liquor stores and bars pay thousands of dollars each year for the privilege of selling alcohol, Baker noted this week at a conference on opioids in Minneapolis, but drug companies only pay a few hundred dollars in licensing fees.

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    The Week in Public Finance: Amid Rising Home Prices, 2 States Take Property Tax Proposals to Voters

    Ballot measures in California and Louisiana seek to protect homeowners from huge property tax spikes.
    BY  SEPTEMBER 28, 2018
    For Sale sign outside of a home.



    • Voters in California and Louisiana face ballot measures that would reduce their property taxes at a time when the median U.S. home price has risen by 40 percent in five years
    • California's Proposition 5 would help seniors, the disabled or people who are homeless as the result of a natural disaster.
    • Louisiana's Amendment 6 would phase in homeowners’ new property taxes over four years.

    Home prices have risen, but when voters in two states head to the polls in November, they could at least reduce their property taxes.

    The median home price has risen by 40 percent nationwide in the past five years and is still rapidly rising. The increase is blamed largely on a housing shortage. The problem has been especially acute in California, which -- along with Louisiana -- is considering property tax reductions this fall. 

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    The Week in Public Finance: Do Income Tax Caps Only Benefit the Wealthy?

    North Carolina voters will weigh in on the rare policy in November.
    BY  SEPTEMBER 7, 2018
    The North Carolina Capitol (David Kidd)

    For a summary of November's most important ballot measures, click here.

    A proposed income tax cap in North Carolina survived a court challenge this week, leaving it to the voters to decide whether to lean in to what is a rare policy in state government.

    The November ballot measure would lower the state’s income tax rate cap from 10 percent to 7 percent. That’s still above the state’s current flat income tax rate of just under 5.5 percent. But in the past, the rate has been as high as 8.25 percent for high-income earners.

    Capping income tax rates is unusual. Georgia is the only other state that does so, with a 6 percent cap approved by voters in 2014.

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    While Feds Loosen Payday Loan Regulations, Colorado Voters Could Clamp Down

    In a year when the federal government is dialing back financial regulations, Colorado could become the 16th state to limit the notoriously high interest rates on payday loans.
    BY  AUGUST 30, 2018

    For a summary of November's most important ballot measures, click here.

    As the federal government walks back historic regulations on payday lending, Colorado voters this fall will be asked to tighten them -- a sign that strong consumer protections are increasingly being left to the states.

    Short-term loans, often called payday loans because they’re due on the borrower’s next payday, have average interest rates of 129 percent in Colorado. Nationally, rates average between 150 percent and more than 600 percent a year. A ballot proposal, which was certified as Initiative 126 by the secretary of state on Tuesday, would cap those rates at 36 percent. If passed, Colorado would be the 16th state, plus the District of Columbia, to limit payday loan rates.

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    The Week in Public Finance: After Teacher Strikes, Voters Will Get a Say on Education Funding

    Support for raising teacher pay is near historic highs, but is it enough for voters -- some in red states -- to approve tax increases?
    BY  AUGUST 24, 2018

    Teachers protested outside the Colorado state Capitol in Denver this spring. (AP/David Zalubowski)

    For a summary of November's most important ballot measures, click here.

    After wide-scale teacher walkouts and strikes in six states this spring, support for teacher raises is nearing an all-time high. That could be a determining factor this fall in three states where voters will be asked to approve changes to boost school funding.

    Arizona, Colorado and Oklahoma all have ballot measures on education funding and saw teacher walkouts this year. According to a new poll by the journal Education Next, nearly two out of every three respondents in those states, and others with teacher strikes, favor raising teacher pay -- a 16-point jump since last year. Nationally, about half of respondents support increasing teacher pay, the second-highest it has been in the survey's 12-year history.

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