Safe Patient Handling in New York State: An Estimate of the Costs and Benefits of Statewide Implementation

June 13, 2013. Nurses and other health care workers have among the highest rates of on-the-job injuries in New York as a result of moving and lifting patients. This report considers what can be done to reduce patient handling injuries in New York. A number of hospital and nursing home facilities around the country have invested in patient handling equipment that significantly reduces the physical strain on health care practitioners. This equipment results in considerable cost savings in reduced lost work time, reduced turnover and lower workers compensation costs, and means that the equipment costs can be recouped fairly quickly. This report reviews several studies that have evaluated pilot projects where safe patient handling equipment has been put in place, and estimates the costs, benefits and payback period for statewide implementation in New York State of such equipment.  Implementation would also improve patient safety and satisfaction, and encourage nursing retention.

Immigration Reform Would Improve Economic Productivity

June 4, 2013. A new report from the Fiscal Policy Institute shows that legalizing undocumented immigrants, paired with labor standards enforcement, would boost economic productivity. Reform would remove barriers to advancement for newly legalized immigrants, create a level playing field for businesses, and align our systems of taxation, social services, and social insurance so that they would function as they are supposed to.

“Immigration reform, done right, would be good for immigrants, but it would also be good for all Americans,” said David Dyssegaard Kallick, the director of the Fiscal Policy Institute’s Immigration Research Initiative. “I don’t want to overstate the gains—we’re talking about 5 percent of the labor force. Still, those gains are real, and they’re important.”

• Press release — Immigration Reform Would Improve Economic Productivity

• Report — Three Ways Immigration Reform Would Improve Economic Productivity

Groups Say Tax Free-NY is Bad Economic Development Policy, Bad Tax Policy and Bad for New York.

June 11, 2013. Frank Mauro of the Fiscal Policy Institute joined with community, student and labor groups at a press conference in the Legislative Office Building in Albany to urge the Legislature to reject the Governor’s ill-conceived Tax-Free NY proposal.  The press conference was organized by Ron Deutsch, the executive director of New Yorkers for Fiscal Fairness.

Mauro distributed FPI’s new report on the Tax-Free NY proposal at the press conference which was covered by a number of news outlets including the (Albany) Times Union, the Legislative Gazette and several television and radio stations.

Here is the press release from the participating organizations.

Tax-Free New York – Bad Tax Policy, Bad Economic Development Policy

June 11, 2013. This brief concludes that Tax-Free New York is bad tax policy and bad economic development policy. From a tax policy perspective, the Tax-Free NY proposal is inconsistent with the two long-established pillars of tax fairness—horizontal equity and vertical equity.  In addition, New York State’s past experience with geographically-targeted business tax incentives should raise huge red flags regarding the efficacy of the proposal as an economic development strategy.

Besides being diametrically opposed to the principles of tax fairness, the idea of exempting the personal incomes of the employees of favored businesses from the Personal Income Tax would also undercut one of the main arguments for state-level business tax breaks—that businesses receiving those tax breaks might not be paying full taxes but by those businesses locating in our state rather than somewhere else, we benefit from a broader and stronger personal income tax base.

But even if the Tax-Free NY proposal were revised to exclude this unprecedented exemption of favored employees from Personal Income Taxation, it would still have more risks and costs than benefits. The claim that Tax-Free NY proposal has no cost is incorrect for five reasons that are spelled out in this brief. For example, by giving very favorable tax treatment to some business activities, the Tax-Free NY plan would reduce the market share of some existing businesses that do not receive this favored treatment.  This, in turn, will reduce the profitability of those existing businesses and, thus, their tax liability. The favored businesses will not be paying taxes on their covered activities; and the negatively affected existing businesses will be paying less because of diminished income or closure. This will mean some combination of tax increases and service cuts for other businesses and for residents—a costly, downward spiral rather than a no-cost nirvana.

The brief also reviews the state’s experience with two previous experiments with tax-free zones. It concludes that, in retrospect, it is shocking that the Economic Development Zones program was established in 1986 only three years after the failed Job Incentive Program was closed to new entrants. And that now, it is even more shocking that a new tax-free zones program is being proposed only three years after the failed Empire Zones program was closed to new entrants. To paraphrase the philosopher George Santayana, those who fail to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat the mistakes of their predecessors. Or, as former Assembly Speaker Stanley Fink frequently said, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”

Reforma imigracyjna naprawdę się opłaca! (Immigration Reform Pays Off!)

June 6, 2013. The Polish-language paper Super Express features a story about the Fiscal Policy Institute’s report on immigration reform.

Ameryki i jej mieszkańców, o naszej metropolii nie wspominając – mówi David Dyssegaard Kallick, dyrektor Fiscal Policy Institute’s Immigration Research Initiative, niezależnego instytutu skupiającego się na różnych aspektach mających wpływ na rozwój gospodarczo-ekonomiczny Nowego Jorku. – Z naszych wyliczeń wynika, że Nowy Jork zyskałby znacznie na sile roboczej. Wiele osób przestałoby się bać i dzięki temu efektywniej pracowało. Ponadto nie zapominajmy, że reforma wyeliminowałaby szarą strefę i wykorzystywanie ludzi przez nieuczciwych pracodawców – dodaje.

Nearly half of seniors, including a majority of elderly blacks and Hispanics, are on the cusp of poverty, a new Economic Policy Institute report finds.

June 6, 2013. In a new briefing paper released today by the Economic Policy Institute, the report finds that 52.0 percent of New York seniors are at risk. See FPI’s press release below.

Contact: James Parrott, Deputy Director and Chief Economist, 212-721-5624 (desk), 917-880-9931 (mobile)

New report:

52% of New York seniors are economically vulnerable, the fifth highest among all states.

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s Medicare proposals would put many more seniors at economic risk.

Having to squeeze their dollars, 48.0 percent of seniors nation-wide are at economic risk. The rates of vulnerability are much higher for elderly blacks and Hispanics, at 63.5 percent and 70.1 percent, respectively, a new Economic Policy Institute (EPI) briefing paper finds. The rate for New York State is 52.0 percent, fifth highest among all states. The Fiscal Policy Institute (FPI) is co-releasing the EPI report.

In Financial security of elderly Americans at risk: Proposed changes to Social Security and Medicare could make the majority of seniors ‘economically vulnerable,’ Elise Gould, EPI director of health policy research, and David Cooper, EPI economic analyst, explain that because official poverty statistics do not account for seniors’ increased health costs, they mask the true vulnerability of the elderly population.

Using a more comprehensive assessment of seniors’ living expenses, the EPI study finds that nearly half of America’s seniors, especially minorities and women, are just one bad economic shock away from falling into poverty. As such, any proposed changes to Social Security and Medicare must be evaluated not just for their impact on future budget deficits, but for their impact on living standards of the elderly. “After working hard their entire lives, millions of our elderly are struggling to pay for basic needs like food, medicine and housing, even with Social Security and Medicare,” said the report’s co-author, Elise Gould. “As such, policymakers should consider the dire consequences proposals to restructure these programs would have on our parents and grandparents, shifting more costs onto them when many are already barely making ends meet.”

The EPI study used the Elder Economic Security Standard Index (Elder Index), an income standard developed specifically for the elderly by Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW), to determine what level of income represents actual economic security for elderly Americans.  The EPI study determined that elderly “economic vulnerability” can be defined by having an income less than 2.0 times the Census Bureau’s Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) threshold. Under this more appropriate measure of economic security, the authors find that 48.0 percent of seniors live with dangerously low levels of income, varying considerably across different groups of elderly Americans.

Comparing the elderly by age group—65 to 79 years old versus 80 years old and older—shows that the older elderly have a far higher rate of economic vulnerability (58.1 percent) than people age 65 to 79 (44.4 percent). At 52.6 percent, elderly women are more likely to be economically insecure than men (41.9 percent). Meanwhile, though blacks and Hispanics constitute just 15.4 percent of the elderly population, they comprise over one-fifth (21.9 percent) of the vulnerable elderly, at 63.5 percent and 70.1 percent, respectively.

There are also considerable variations across states and the District of Columbia, from a low of 35.4 percent in North Dakota to a high of 59 percent in the District of Columbia. Not surprisingly, states with large minority populations—like the District of Columbia and California (55.8 percent)—tend to have the highest levels of elderly vulnerability. Hawaii, Georgia, Tennessee, and New York each have at least 52 percent of seniors living below two times the supplemental poverty line. North Dakota (35.4 percent), South Dakota (37.2 percent), Nebraska (40.5 percent), and Wisconsin (40.6 percent) have the lowest shares of vulnerable elderly.

Because lower-income elderly households depend heavily on social programs such as Social Security and Medicare, changes to these programs should be viewed through the lens of how they would affect economically vulnerable seniors. Proposals to shift additional health costs onto seniors, such as House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s plan to convert Medicare into a voucher system, would drive more seniors into poverty. The new EPI report found that under Ryan’s proposed Medicare changes, the predicted increase in seniors’ out-of-pocket health costs would raise the share of economically vulnerable elderly from 48.0 percent to 56.4 percent, an increase of almost 3.5 million vulnerable seniors. Similarly, proposals to change the calculation of Social Security cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) to a chained consumer price index would result in 132,000 more economically vulnerable seniors.

James Parrott, Deputy Director of the Fiscal Policy Institute, warned, “The changes to Medicare and Social Security being considered in Washington will only push more vulnerable older New Yorkers to the edge. It is a giant step backwards to worsen living conditions for our seniors in the name of long-term fiscal stability. That only makes our future less, not more secure.”

“We can dispel the myth that most seniors are ‘greedy geezers’ with lavish retirements.  Almost half are either in poverty or close to it,” said EPI’s David Cooper, a co-author of the report.  “We shouldn’t be cutting the benefits that are barely adequate as is, effectively legislating more of them into poverty.”