Monday, March 21, 2011

Weekend Links

Weekend Links (Sources: Seattle Times, Seattle PI)

Taxes to be extended. How often do you hear about a government program that was supposed to be temporary wind up being permanent? Here in the local area, the state is looking for ways to offset a huge budget shortfall. One way to fund areas that might get the ax under budget cuts is to extend a tax on tourism that was scheduled to end in 2012. This tax was used to pay off Safeco Field, the Mariners Baseball Club’s new downtown digs. If lawmakers get their way, they will use it to expand the convention center to the tune of $600M, build and refurbish low income housing (mostly used by those employed in the hospitality industry), and the arts. The funny thing about this is that only King County (Seattle) will be effected. I covered this in a little more detail in an earlier post.

Seattle Mayor wants to shut down the Alaskan Way Viaduct. In what I would consider a pretty bold move Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn has stated he would like to see the viaduct closed in 2012, which had been an original target date. According to his spokesperson, he does not have a plan on how to handle any immediate traffic disruptions caused by an early closure.

Unemployment rate drops. The unemployment rate in Washington has dropped from 9.2% to 9.1% after gain 800 nonagricultural jobs in Feb. Let’s go party because the recession is over.

Budget woes increase. An additional $700M has been added to the forthcoming Washington State budget shortfall increasing the budget deficit to $5.1B. This is due to lower than projected tax revenues due to the continued slow economy. Governor Chris Gregoire said, “We cannot trim our way of it (budget deficit). We are going to have to make cuts.  Everybody will sacrifice for us to get out of these tough times.”

Transparency (lack of) has struck the Washington State legislature.  State Sen. Jim Honeyford (R-Sunnyside) has a column calling for Olympia Legislators to stop hold surprise public hearings and giving the public little to no time to review pending legislation. Sound like the democrat-control state house has read from the book of Obama on transparency.

States are looking at on-line retailers as a source of revenue. In these cash-strapped times for governments from the federal all the way down to the city level, many governments are looking for ways to increase their revenue stream. One way is to go after on-line retailers. According to a SCOTUS ruling states cannot collect taxes unless the business has a physical presence, such as a store, in that state. Recently, Illinois passed a law that if an on-line retailer pays commissions to any affiliates residing in Illinois, then they must collect the sales tax for that transaction. One on-line retailer has ended its affiliate program in Illinois to avoid having to collect taxes.

Obama defends nuclear power. Put this under the category of knock me down with a feather. Obama and his green-gurus have been busy trying to take us back to the stone-age with all their talk about getting away from traditional sources of energy (coal, oil), that talk about nuclear power generation was sure to be moved to the end of the line with all of what has happened in Japan and the fact that many of his green buddies don’t like nuclear power. Well, it seems that Obama feels there is a future for nuclear power generation in the USA. Knock me down!

NY Times no longer free. The New York Times is going to start charging an access fee at the end of the month to their on-line edition. The print edition has seen a steady decline in readership for the past several years and is looking for these fees to make up for the lost revenue.  PACNW Righty’s prediction is this will be a massive failure.

Inflation Fears. Food jumped 0.8% in the month of Feb, causing concerns that inflation might be a part of our future.

In case you need any proof Islamic radicals are taking advantage of the unrest in the Middle East, please take a gander at this news article. A top al-Qaida commander is urging rebels to kill Gadhafi and to establish Islamic rule.

$63M per ride. While it probably pales in comparison to the cost of the USA actually launching a rocket, it seems that the Russians have decided to increase the price they charge the USA for an astronaut to ride one of their rockets into space. The current price: $56M, the new price, effective 2014: $63M. Cheaper than having our own space program, but isn’t our space program (when not working to make Muslim feel better about themselves) worth almost any price. Our space program used to be the pride of the nation. Remember how you felt when the Challenger blew up, or if you are old enough, when we landed a man on the moon? Riding a Russian rocket into space just doesn’t feel quite right to me.

INTERESTING (maybe only to me):

Interesting column on ethics and etiquette on airlines over at the WSJ. (link via Seattle PI)

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