Economic crisis: Today's state perspective(2)


Ohio's unemployment rate jumped to 7.8 percent in December, the highest monthly rate in more than 22 years, according to data released Friday, Jan. 23, by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, the  Dayton Daily News reports. It said the rising joblessness is a contributor to the state's potential deficit of more than $7 billion in the two-year budget cycle that begins July 1.

The Obama administration is working with Congress to fashion a massive stimulus package to try to get the economy purring again, but Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D) is telling colleagues that states probably will have little flexibility in spending the money. The  Billings Gazette quotes Schweitzer as saying: "Probably every thermostat that is put in every school in Montana will have a different congressman's name on it. … That's how specific this is going to be."

In Nevada, a leading lawmaker is talking about trying to generate revenue for the budget-pinched state by taxing prostitution. The  Las Vegas Sun quotes Democratic state Sen. Bob Coffin as saying he wants to look at taxing the state's legal brothels in rural counties. Prostitution is legal in most of Nevada's rural counties, the Sun says. While rural counties sometimes collect large fees from what sometimes is called the world's oldest business, the state has resisted taxing brothels because of the stigma attached to prostitution.

A leading Iowa Republican thinks it might be a good idea to lease or sell the state lottery to the Iowa State Public Employees' Retirement System, the Quad City Times reports. State Sen. Paul McKinley said such a move would provide an immediate boost in revenue to the state's general fund while also allowing IPERS to benefit from a stable source of funding in the future, the newspaper said.

An analysis of Michigan's penal system shows that the state could save $262 million in prison costs by 2015 by bringing parole policies in line with other states — and releasing thousands of prisoners early. The analysis was conducted by the Justice Center at the Council of State Governments, the  Detroit Free Press reports. The newspaper said the CSG analysis found that Michigan has a higher-than-average violent crime rate but fewer police on the streets than other states, and that it locks up a higher percentage of its population than almost any other state in the country. It said critics of the study complained that the projected savings were relatively modest and that researchers left key questions unanswered.

So many people are pouring into Oregon social service agencies seeking cash assistance and food stamps that state officials on Thursday declared an emergency, the  Statesman Journal in Salem, Ore., reports. Statewide, requests for cash assistance, or Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), have increased 16.4 percent during the past year to a total of 21,633 families. Requests for food stamps have risen 15.5 percent during the same period to a total of 520,650 people, the newspaper said.


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