Daily Digest

Daily Digest 9/28 - Greek Gov't Approves New Property Tax Bill, French Teachers Strike Over Job Cuts, Food Pantries In Crisis

Wednesday, September 28, 2011, 9:41 AM
  • Watchdog budget options: Tolls, city income tax, privatized garbage
  • Angry Athenians march as tax vote looms
  • Greek Parliament Approves New Property Tax Bill
  • Merkel majority in euro vote hangs in balance
  • European debt inaction scaring the world: Obama
  • Germany hits out at US as Greece vows action on debt
  • French teachers strike over job cuts under Sarkozy
  • Looming budget cuts threaten San Jose's expansive solar plan
  • Harrisburg Parking Meters Could Double In Price
  • Police: Pa. couple stole copper to pay for wedding
  • Milk, meat prices to continue to rise
  • Upstate Food Pantry In Danger Of Shutting Down
  • Local food pantries are in crisis
  • Closing of Angel Food Ministries impacts Triangle food banks
  • Local pantries hungry for donations
  • Unrelenting downturn is redrawing U.S. economic map
  • Health-Benefit Costs Rise Most Since 2005, Surpass $15,000
  • Cost of Family Health Coverage Doubled in Past Decade
  • Rate boosts for Toledo water users in pipeline
  • Woman renting homes she doesn't own
  • Law drives school lunch price hike
  • French public debt to hit 87% of GDP in 2012: report

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Watchdog budget options: Tolls, city income tax, privatized garbage (Chicago)

Just in time for budget season, Chicago’s City Hall watchdog agency is putting forth more than $2.8 billion in spending cuts and revenue hikes – from imposing a city income tax to charging tolls on Lake Shore Drive to privatizing trash collection – in order to ease a massive budget deficit.In his latest menu of “budget options,” Inspector General Joe Ferguson’s office lays out 63 ideas to mitigate a projected $635 million city budget deficit for 2012.

The options hit both sides of Chicago’s balance sheet, and range from often-discussed policy proposals to pie-in-the-sky political non-starters.The single largest-netting option is imposing a city income tax, which the report estimates could bring in $500 million a year to the city’s coffers. Another $450 million could come from broadening the city sales tax to include more services, while raising water and sewer rates could net $380 million a year, according to the report.

Angry Athenians march as tax vote looms

The Greek parliament is expected to approve a deeply unpopular property tax on Tuesday to lure international lending inspectors back to Athens and release vital aid, even as demonstrators stepped up protests against more austerity. The vote is an important first test of the nation's ability to push through a new wave of belt-tightening to persuade the IMF and EU that it deserves an 8-billion-euro ($11 billion) loan it needs to pay salaries and avoid bankruptcy next month.

Greek Parliament Approves New Property Tax Bill

The new austerity bill containing the property tax legislation passed the 300-seat Greek parliament with a simple majority after all the 154 deputies from the ruling Socialist PASOK party voted in favor of the measure.

Nevertheless, the additional property tax, which the government aims to collect via electricity bills, has evoked widespread criticism as well as opposition in the country, where almost 70% of the population own their own home. Those who fail to pay the new tax risk having their electricity connection cut off.

Merkel majority in euro vote hangs in balance (Germany)

Germany's Angela Merkel has convinced some rebels in her party to back new powers for the euro zone's rescue fund in a vote on Thursday, but may still have to rely on the opposition to get the measure passed, in what would be a humiliating setback. The vote in the Bundestag lower house of parliament is the biggest test of Merkel's leadership since she came to power six years ago. While passage of the bill is not in doubt thanks to support from opposition parties like the Social Democrats (SPD) and Greens, the way her own lawmakers vote will determine whether Merkel retains her authority until the next election in 2013.

"The real question is how this vote affects the German electorate longer-term," Josef Schlarmann, who represents the "Mittelstand" of German industry in the CDU, told Reuters. "Roughly 80 percent of German voters are against an extension of the euro zone's rescue mechanism, while 80 percent of politicians are for it," he said. "The political establishment and electorate are on a collision course."

European debt inaction scaring the world: Obama

Barack Obama has urged European leaders to confront the deepening sovereign debt crisis, warning their inaction is "scaring the world". U.S. president's blunt message follows an earlier warning from his treasury secretary Timothy Geithner that a fresh economic shock from Europe could cause cascading defaults and runs on banks.

Germany hits out at US as Greece vows action on debt

Germany told the United States Tuesday to stop pointing the finger at Europe for its own economic woes while debt-wracked Greece promised to do its utmost to avert a financial meltdown in the eurozone.

French teachers strike over job cuts under Sarkozy

Tens of thousands of French teachers and their supporters took to the streets Tuesday for a national strike and protests over education job cuts under President Nicolas Sarkozy's government.... Labor unions want to ratchet up the pressure on Sarkozy's conservatives, who have cut public-sector jobs as a way to help reduce France's bloated budget deficit.

In a first, private school teachers joined the walkout with their public-sector colleagues who are angry about job cuts. Tens of thousands of positions have been cut since 2007 and a further 14,000 are planned to go in 2012.

Looming budget cuts threaten San Jose's expansive solar plan

The gloomy financial forecast that has San Jose considering shuttering its branch libraries and community centers next summer could also claim another casualty: a money-saving solar project at the heart of Mayor Chuck Reed's clean-energy plan.....San Jose projects a deficit next year estimated at $78 million to $115 million, and deficits for at least five years after that.

Harrisburg Parking Meters Could Double In Price

Harrisburg City Council committee moved a step closer to raising more revenue for the city before the end of this year.

The council's budget, finance and public safety committee approved a couple of bills on Monday that will raise rates for meter and permit parking.

Police: Pa. couple stole copper to pay for wedding

Police say a western Pennsylvania couple cut down copper wire from 18 utility poles because they needed money to pay for their wedding.

Online court records don't list defense attorneys for 24-year-old April Cater and 23-year-old Joseph Russell, both of North Sewickley Township, and The Associated Press could not immediately locate a listed phone for the couple.

The couple faces a preliminary hearing Oct. 24 on theft and other charges for allegedly cutting down the wire on Aug. 9, four days before their wedding. Police say Russell told them he had lost his job at an auto parts store and needed the money.

Milk, meat prices to continue to rise

That announcement came from Indiana Farm Bureau spokespersons Isabella Chism and Kathleen Dutro as their group's latest "market basket" quarterly survey was released. Sixteen food items checked by 23 shoppers in the Indiana survey during July, August and September tallied an average of $50.33, up $1.39 from April, May and June. What prices were higher in Indiana groceries?

Upstate Food Pantry In Danger Of Shutting Down (S.C)

One of the Upstate's largest food pantries is in danger of shutting down, if they don't receive some help soon. Tom Williams, executive director of God's Pantry in Greenville County, says they only have about a week's worth of food left. "This is the worst I've ever seen it," says Williams.

The pantry serves Greenville, Spartanburg and Laurens County. So far this year, they've fed about 100,000 need people around the area, according to Williams. But donations are running only at 69% of what they typically bring in. Williams says he has boxes in his warehouse, but they're empty right now. He blames the problem on the poor economy, and the shortage of donations from churches, one of the pantry's main sources of help. "Churches are really struggling right now," he says.

Local food pantries are in crisis (California)

This pantry in Visalia is running low on canned food items and it's not alone. Food pantries throughout Tulare County have been facing a shortage. Not only have food banks seen an increase in demand because of the sluggish economy... but food manufacturers have cut back on their donations due to increasing food costs.

Sandy Beals said, "Food prices have been very high, so that not only hurts people on a tight budget, it also means that less food comes here.

Closing of Angel Food Ministries impacts Triangle food banks (N.C)

"Together we're not doing enough. If one of us disappears, it cripples everyone else," said Jill Staton Bullard, executive director of the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle. "It's a huge issue."

The Food Shuttle, like many Triangle nonprofits, is also seeing an increased demand for food assistance and a reduction in the number of donations coming in. "Our reserves have dwindled to nothing," Staton Bullard said. "We're so far down that we're at a critical shortage."

Local pantries hungry for donations (Maryland)

Last school year, more than 19,000 students qualified for free and reduced-price meals, county officials said. Many more families with problems putting food on the table don't even qualify for assistance.

Unrelenting downturn is redrawing U.S. economic map (Graph)

The West has the highest unemployment in the nation. The collapse of the housing bubble left Nevada with the highest jobless rate, 13.4 percent, followed by California with 12.1 percent. Michigan has the third-highest rate, 11.2 percent, as a result of the longstanding woes of the U.S. auto industry.

Now, though, of the states with the 10 highest unemployment rates, six are in the South. The region, which relied heavily on manufacturing and construction, was hit hard by the downturn.

Health-Benefit Costs Rise Most Since 2005, Surpass $15,000

The cost for businesses to buy health coverage for workers rose the most this year since 2005 and may reach $32,175 for a family in 2021, according to a survey of private and public employers.

The average cost of a family policy climbed 9 percent in 2011 to $15,073, according to a poll of 2,088 private companies and state and local government agencies by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation in Menlo Park, California, and the Chicago- based American Hospital Association's Health Research and Educational Trust.

Cost of Family Health Coverage Doubled in Past Decade

Many businesses continue to cite the high cost of coverage in decisions not to hire new employees, dragging down an already-sputtering economy. According to the study, the cost of family coverage has doubled since 2001, when premiums averaged $7,061.

Rate boosts for Toledo water users in pipeline

Toledo's aging water-treatment system is poised to receive a $36 million investment, thanks to a substantial increase in water rates this year. Even so, city officials said they expect to soon seek yet another rate hike, although they did not specify an amount. The city's Department of Public Utilities has asked Toledo City Council to approve the issuance of up to $40 million in bonds, to be paid back over 20 to 30 years with the help of the increased water revenue. Toledo residents now pay 9 percent more for their water than in 2010, and further rate increases are planned for the next three years.

Woman renting homes she doesn't own

The foreclosure boom has forced tens of thousands of Georgians from their homes, but a Channel 2 Action News investigation has found one case where the bank is backing down and the woman who says she now owns the home got it for free.

Susan Weidman is under indictment in Cobb County and under criminal investigation in DeKalb County. Investigators say she filed court documents declaring a million-dollar foreclosed home to be abandoned and assumed ownership by Adverse Possession -- basically squatters’ rights.

Law drives school lunch price hike

The price of school lunches increased this year for students at many area districts with prices expected to continue to rise in the future as school officials across the country grapple with the requirements of a new federal child nutrition law.

But some families are feeling the price-pinch already. Under a little-noticed provision of the child nutrition law, many districts must begin bringing their prices in line with what it costs to prepare the meals, eventually charging an average of $2.46 per lunch.
That provision contributed to several price increases this fall, with more on the way, local school district food service directors said.

French public debt to hit 87% of GDP in 2012: report

France's public debt will rise to roughly 87 percent of gross domestic product next year, according to the draft budget to be presented Wednesday, the daily Les Echos reported citing parliament sources.

The tax burden is set to rise to 44 percent of GDP next year, up from 43.2 percent forecast in last year's budget, and hitting the level when President Nicolas Sarkozy took office in 2007.

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Peak coal?

AP Enterprise: Appalachia faces steep coal decline

Coal here is getting harder and costlier to dig — and the region, which includes southern West Virginia, Virginia and Tennessee, is headed for a huge collapse in coal production.

The U.S. Department of Energy projects that in a little more than three years, the amount of coal mined here will be just half of what it was in 2008. That's a significant loss of a signature Appalachian industry, and the jobs that come with it.



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Greek Official: Ability to Pay New Taxes Exhausted


"Greece has "exhausted" its ability to pay more taxes to cover budget gaps, the deputy prime minister declared Wednesday, saying he himself can't pay a new emergency tax without selling property.

Theodoros Pangalos spoke as the debt-shackled nation faced fresh strikes and braced for another inspection by international creditors, starting Thursday, to decide whether to continue the vital bailout loan payouts.

Parliament approved a new emergency property tax Tuesday to be added to electricity bills later this year, as Greece remains under strong international pressure to abide by its painful deficit-cutting targets. Greece will go bankrupt by mid-October if it does not get an expected €8 billion ($11 billion) loan.

"I believe that the tax limits of Greek society have been exhausted. I would say they have been exhausted for some time," Pangalos told private Mega television."

"Italian borrowing costs are set to increase further at an auction on Thursday, the first long-term sale since Standard & Poor's cut the country's credit ratings, with the 10-year yield seen rising to a new euro lifetime high of around 5.9 percent.

The Treasury plans to sell between 5.5 billion and 9 billion euros in three-, five- and ten-year debt, and it has carefully tailored its offer to help attract sufficient demand.

The euro zone's third largest economy, saddled with a public debt pile of 1.9 trillion euros, has been fighting to stave off a market crisis that has driven its bond yields towards levels seen as unsustainable over the long-term.

Market pressure has eased somewhat over the last few days, as investors held onto hopes that the euro zone's bailout fund could be expanded.

But at 368 basis points the spread between 10-year Italian BTPs and German Bunds is not far from the record high of 416 basis points it hit at the height of the crisis, and Italy is benefitting less than Spain from the relative market respite.

Rome paid the most in three years at a short-term auction on Tuesday. "

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