The Pulse: Citizens League Issues Scan

"The Pulse", the Citizens League issue scan looks at topics of interest to members of the Citizens League (

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Thursday, February 06, 2003
Public Services and Corruption. U.S. Ranks 16 in World Corruption Index. A report from Transparency International ( cited in the February 1, 2003 issue of The Economist ranks Finland as the least corrupt country in the world. After Finland the next five least corrupt countries listed were Singapore, Canada, Britain, Australia, and Hong Kong. The U.S. is ranked 16th on the scale. The scale measures misuse of public office for private gain. Source: The Economist, February 1, 2003, p. 90. (317)

Wednesday, February 05, 2003
State Budgets: NCSL Says State Budgets Worsen by the Day. According to a report released February 4, 2003, state budget gaps have grown by 50 percent in the last two months and state policymakers will work to resolve unprecedented budget shortfalls for the next 15 months. The latest National Conference of State Legislatures survey reported that two-thirds of the states must reduce their budgets by nearly $26 billion between now and June 30, which ends the current fiscal year in most states. In November, when NCSL issued its last report, states projected a cumulative gap of $17.5 billion. States already had addressed a $49.1 billion shortfall as they crafted their fiscal year 2003 budgets. The news gets worse for budget planners. State legislatures face a minimum $68.5 billion budget shortfall for FY 2004. “The magnitude of next year’s budget gap is startling,” said NCSL President Angela Monson, a state senator from Oklahoma. “Thirty-three states estimate budget gaps in excess of 5 percent, with 18 of those facing gaps above 10 percent. There is great cause for concern since the deficit numbers continue to grow at an alarming rate. ”Sluggish revenues are a major contributor to the budget shortfalls, according to the report. At least 30 states say revenue collections are below budget forecasts, with 12 of these reporting collections below revised estimates. Thirty-seven states say spending is exceeding budgeted levels, with all but five reporting excessive Medicaid or health care costs. Excerpted from (316).

Tuesday, February 04, 2003
Taxation: Governing Magazine Ranks State Tax Systems. In the February 2003 issue, Governing magazine ranked the 50 states for adequacy of revenue, fairness of the revenue system to taxpayers and for management of the system. For adequacy of revenue, Minnesota was given two stars and four states received four stars: Delaware, New Mexico, North Dakota and Wyoming. For fairness to taxpayers Minnesota was given two stars and only Hawaii received a four star rating. For management of the system, Minnesota was given four stars and was one of six states with that ranking. The full report may be found at: (315)

Monday, February 03, 2003
Energy and Environment. U.S. Rejoins 'Iter' Hyrdogen Fusion Effort. Janet Rae-Dupree wrote for the U.S. News and World Report Science and Technology section for the February 10, 2003 issue on: "The fire sometime -- A new U.S. commitment to a fusion power reactor." The U.S. has rejoined an international consortium to build a $5 billion fusion prototype that is planned to produce more energy than it takes to operate it - a first for fusion power. U.S. Energy Secretary Abraham noted that: "Fusion plants could produce hydrogen power hundred of millions of hydrogen powered fuel cell vehicles." The full story is at: (314)

Environment. Capturing and Burying Carbon Dioxide? Betsy Carpenter wrote for the U.S. News and World Report Science and Technology section for the February 10, 2003 issue on "A deep-six fix -- Could burying fossil-fuel emissions save the climate?". The U.S. Department of Energy is spending $90 million to investigate ways of burying carbon dioxide as one way of "sequestration" of power plant and other carbon dioxide producers output. Norway has one carbon dioxide sequestration project ongoing involving putting power plant carbon dioxide output into porous rock. How much currently costly sequestration technology is used in reducing airborne emission of carbon dioxide remains to be seen. The full article is at: (313)

Sunday, February 02, 2003
Economy and Economic Development. Minnesota Needs to Act to Strengthen Our Economy. In the Sunday February 2, 2003 Star Tribune Fred Zimmerman wrote about "Manufacturing and the Minnesota budget deficit" concerning the Minnesota state economy. In Zimmerman's view Minnesota's economy is weaker than in the 1990s and in fact a bit weaker than other Midwestern states. Minnesota has lost the entire manufacturing job gain during the 1990s. Worse yet, the jobs remaining are not as good. The computer companies are gone. Honeywell's headquarters has left town. ADC Telecommunications has shrunk. The sales of many of the well-equipped supplier companies are off substantially. Not surprisingly, the shrinkage in the number of good industrial jobs has left Minnesota with astronomical budget deficits. Zimmerman goes over what he believes are six misconceptions: Minnesota is a high technology state, Minnesota schools are outstanding, investments in education pay off in a stronger economy, Minnesota's high quality of life attracts companies, the downturn in the economy is cyclical, the service economy will bail us out. The full article may be found at: (312)