Sweeping budget deal would add $400 billion in federal spending, end months of partisan wrangling

Congressional leaders on Wednesday unveiled a sweeping budget deal that would add about $400 billion in federal spending over the next two years, delivering the military funding boost demanded by President Trump alongside the increase in domestic programs sought by Democrats. With a midnight-Thursday government shutdown looming, the accord holds the promise to break a months-long partisan standoff centered around federal spending, though some roadblocks remain. In a major boost, the White House signaled its support, with press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders calling it “steps forward.” According to outlines of the budget deal shared by congressional aides, existing spending limits written into law would be raised by a combined $315 billion through 2019. About $90 billion more would be spent on disaster aid for victims of recent hurricanes and wildfires. Top Senate leaders from both parties called the deal a breakthrough and a prelude to more cooperation between Republicans and Democrats. “This bill represents a significant bipartisan step forward,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). “I hope we can build on this bipartisan momentum and make 2018 a year of significant achievement for Congress, for our constituents and for the country we all love.” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said, “This budget deal is the first real sprout of bipartisanship, and it should break the long cycle of spending crises that have snarled this Congress and hampered our middle class.” Initial votes on the plan in the Senate could come as soon as Wednesday afternoon, but opposition to the deal was mounting in the House, where conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats found reasons to fume. In one late-developing wrinkle, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Wednesday that she and “a large number” of fellow Democrats will oppose a spending deal to keep the Continue Reading

Medicaid work requirements could cost the government more in the long run

(The Conversation is an independent and nonprofit source of news, analysis and commentary from academic experts.) (THE CONVERSATION) After the Trump administration gave states permission to impose new restrictions on Medicaid eligibility, Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin wasted no time. Within days, Kentucky instituted a new rule requiring “able-bodiedâ€� adults on the health insurance program for the poor and disabled to complete 80 hours of “community engagementâ€� per month. Paid work, job training, volunteering or being the primary caregiver for children and the elderly all count. Advocates for disabled and low-income people fear that this mandate, which could spread to at least 10 other states, will strip millions of insured Americans of their health coverage. The states taking this step say it has become increasingly hard for them to cover their share of Medicaid’s costs. But, based on my health economics research, I believe that the policy is unfair to the most vulnerable and may end up not saving any money. Jointly financed Medicaid, which covers 20 percent of Americans, is jointly financed. The federal government covered 67 percent of Medicaid’s US$553 billion cost in 2016. The states, which administer the program within their borders, had to foot the rest of the bill. Many states say that the program consumes more and more of their budgets, leaving less money for other priorities. It’s true: State Medicaid spending, which has risen annually since 2010, spiked by an average of almost 14 percent in 2015. That’s mainly due to the influx of newly eligible enrollees in the 32 states â€" including Kentucky â€" that expanded their Medicaid programs under Obamacare. The District of Columbia has also taken this step. Although the pace of new enrollment tied to Obamacare is now slowing down, state Continue Reading

Health care costs soaring for retired teachers

Health care costs soaring for retired teachers By Allie Morris, Austin Bureau December 31, 2017 Photo: Kin Man Hui /San Antonio Express-News FILE PHOTO FILE PHOTO AUSTIN — Retired Texas teachers are ringing in the New Year with sticker shock. Health care costs are soaring on Jan. 1 for many retired educators on the state-subsidized insurance plan, with families now facing $1,000 monthly premiums and out-of-pocket costs rising across-the-board. Most Popular 1 San Antonio’s Top 25 Taco Places 2 New businesses lagging on the East Side 3 Unlikely heroes lead Pistons to romp over Spurs 4 Texas Dems quandary: embrace Sanders or not? 5 Express-News Sportswoman of the year: Fully-healed, Taylor... The changes are driving some retirees — many of whom live on fixed pension incomes that average about $2,000 a month — back into the workforce. At least 9,000 educators and their dependents have left the Teacher Retirement System’s TRS-Care altogether, a departure rate six times higher than in recent years. “Lots of people have done their time, they thought they were going to get to enjoy their retirement,” said Tim Lee, Executive Director of the Texas Retired Teachers Association. “All of a sudden they are finding themselves in the position of having to find another job to afford their health care.” Created by the state in 1985, TRS-Care covers roughly 250,000 retired educators and their dependents, but has been on the brink of insolvency in recent years. Facing a $1 billion shortfall this session, lawmakers pumped about $350 million into the system and approved changes that led to higher premiums, deductibles and out-of-pocket costs for many retirees. After outcry over the summer, the Legislature during the special session injected an additional $212 million to help offset rising costs. Still, Betty Munie, a 74-year-old former Continue Reading

Japan’s Mitsui Fudosan to develop $3.6 billion office tower in New York

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese property developer Mitsui Fudosan Co <8801.T> said on Friday it would take a 90 percent stake in an office tower in New York that would cost more than 400 billion yen ($3.6 billion), its largest investment in a single building overseas. The 58-storey building, 50 Hudson Yards, in Manhattan's Hudson Yards office and retail complex will be one of the largest standalone office properties in the area, Mitsui Fudosan said in a statement. The building, with 2.79 million feet (260,000 square meters) of floor area, is expected to be completed in 2022, it said.Mitsui Fudosan, which has been aggressively developing office properties in Tokyo, said it has positioned overseas business as one of a growth area.In Tokyo, office rents are expected to fall as the capital adds office space ahead of the 2020, when the city hosts the Olympic games, while the metropolitan government expects Tokyo's population to start falling after 2025. (Reporting by Junko Fujita; Editing by William Mallard)(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2017. Click For Restrictions Continue Reading

Gov. Cuomo’s housing tax break incentive would hit NYC with $1.2B in costs

Gov. Cuomo’s proposal to revive a key housing tax break would drive up costs to the city by $1.2 billion over the next decade, according to a new report by the Independent Budget Office. The overhauled proposal for the 421-a tax break - meant to spur the construction of apartment buildings - would be $120 million a year more expensive than the version of the controversial exemption that expired at the end of 2015. That adds up to an extra $1,400 in cost per apartment per year, according to IBO. The old 421-a program expired after the real estate industry and trade unions failed to reach a deal on whether contractors should be required to pay union-level prevailing wages to their workers. Under Cuomo’s latest proposal, developers in certain parts of the city would be required to pay as much as $60 an hour to construction workers and make apartments rent stabilized for an extra five years. In exchange, they’d get a full property tax exemption for 35 years. Under the old program, the tax benefits were reduced for the final decade. Cuomo’s idea would cost the city $8.4 billion in property tax revenue over ten years - compared to $7.2 billion for the program in effect through 2015. “The Governor’s proposal provides more affordability for tenants and fairer wages for workers, but keeps the cost of the program from the original 2015 law largely intact. Any expenses in exchange for making sure that all New Yorkers have a safe and decent place to call home are minimal, 26 years out, and worth it,” said Cuomo spokeswoman Dani Lever. The governor’s office did not offer its own estimate of the cost. Continue Reading

U.S. legal marijuana sales were $5.4B in 2015, higher than Trump’s net worth and several times the cost of the Space Shuttle

Americans spent more money on legal marijuana in 2015 than Donald Trump is worth, research revealed Monday. The $5.4 billion in legal pot sales outpaces the magnate and presidential candidate's $4.5 billion net worth and dwarfs the $1.7 billion cost of NASA’s Space Shuttle Endeavour. And weed sales will overtake the price of a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier in a few years. Analysts from ArcView Market Research and New Frontier Data unveiled their annual report on the size of the legal pot market Monday, showing a 17% increase over 2014. The marijuana market researchers predict overall sales will grow to $21.8 billion by 2020 at a compound annual rate of 30%. Voters in at least seven states will consider allowing adults to get high legally this year and 86% of Americans now live in states with some form of legal marijuana use. “Many in the business and financial sector have taken a ‘wait and see’ approach to the legal cannabis industry,” the publishers wrote in an introductory letter. “The data in this report confirms what pioneer investors and entrepreneurs suspected: legalization of cannabis is one of greatest business opportunities of our time and it’s still early enough to see huge growth.” Yet the figures already lend themselves to fun comparisons. They may never add up to the $710 billion Americans spend each year at bars and nightclubs or the $400 billion projected overall cost of the Department of Defense’s most costly and ambitious fighter jet program. But the 2015 sales would buy 33 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, based on the Government Accountability Office’s estimate. And when legal weed sales grow to $12 billion in 2018, the proceeds would be more than enough to pay for the city-sized USS John F. Kennedy aircraft carrier currently in the works. One choice stat from the Euromonitor market research group cited by The Washington Post Continue Reading

Diabetes in Delaware: a $1.1 billion problem

It costs $1.1 billion a year to treat diabetes in Delaware, signaling a need to invest in innovative healthcare and prevention efforts around the state, officials say.At the Delaware Leadership Summit on Diabetes in Rehoboth Beach Wednesday panelists said complications from the chronic disease, costs of treatment and lack of insurance coverage are at the root of the billion dollar problem.Medication, office and emergency room visits and time spent in skilled nursing facilities drive up costs, explains Dr. Robert Bulgarelli, medical director for Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield.Diabetes-related complications could include heart disease or stroke, since high blood glucose levels can increase fat deposits on the inside of blood vessels walls. Over time those deposits impact blood flow and increase the chance of the vessels clogging and hardening.STORY: Living with diabetes? How to exercise safely"Self-management is the key to diabetes," Bulgarelli said after the summit, which was sponsored by the American Diabetes Association.But to fully manage the disease patients need to have access to care and coverage.There are some issues in Delaware. For example, Medicare does not currently cover the YMCA of Delaware's prediabetes prevention program. The 16-week program helps participants to make lifestyle changes in their diet and exercise routine. Though the YMCA offers financial assistance, it still costs $429 for the year.Increasing workplace wellness programs is one way to help patients get access, says Don Post, director of the Delaware Division of Public Health's diabetes program.STORY: 5 ways to create a diabetes meal plan"Build a culture within your worksite about prevention," Post said. "You are either going to pay now or pay later."On average employees with diabetes cost about 2.5 times more to treat than employees without.The $1.1 billion cost of care includes treatment of type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes and prediabetes, Continue Reading

Budget deficit soars to $102.8 billion in July

WASHINGTON - The federal budget deficit soared in July, pushed higher by economic stimulus payments and $15 billion in outlays to protect depositors at failed banks. The Treasury Department reported that the deficit for July totaled $102.8 billion, nearly triple the $36.4 billion deficit recorded in July 2007. The deficit outstripped the $97 billion gap that Wall Street economists had been expecting for July. The Treasury said outlays were pushed up by $15 billion because of payments the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. made to depositors at failed banks. The Treasury report did not identify the banks but federal regulators seized the assets of California-based IndyMac Bank, the largest regulated thrift to fail in U.S. history. The FDIC is expected to be successful in recovering much of its outlays for failed banks, in part by selling the assets of seized institutions. The FDIC has also raised the possibility that it will increase insurance premiums on healthy banks to cover the cost of what are expected to be rising bank failures as the current credit crisis unfolds. Besides the payouts by the FDIC, government outlays were increased by the final bulk mailings of government stimulus payments in July. The July deficit also looked worse than the July 2007 deficit because last year's figure was artificially deflated by timing issues that shifted about $19 billion in normal outlays into the prior month. So far this year, the budget deficit totals $371.4 billion, more than double last year's deficit through the same time period of $157.4 billion. The Bush administration recently revised its forecast for this year's deficit, lowering it from an estimate of $410 billion, down to $389 billion. However, the Congressional Budget Office is more pessimistic, projecting the deficit for this year will total $400 billion when the current budget year wraps up on Sept. 30. For the 2009 budget year, which begins Oct. 1, the administration is now projecting a Continue Reading

Lehman Brothers on the brink – what will it cost you?

Want a federal bailout? Get in line.Now that the Treasury Department has finally announced its rescue of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac - at a cost of up to $100 billion each--isn't it time to start tallying up all this largesse? A hundred billion here, a hundred billion there, maybe it doesn't seem like much at first. But before you know it, you've drained the treasury of the world's richest country. And besides, more rescues seem to be coming. RELATED: LEHMAN PLANS ASSET SALES, REPORTS HUGE 3Q LOSSHere's a tally of the bailouts so far:The stimulus package. Maximum taxpayer cost: $150 billion What taxpayers got: Free money, up to $1,200 from the government per household, to spend as they wish. Early research shows most recipients have used the money to pay down debts or boost their savings. Good for them, but bad for the economy, which benefits most in the short-term from spending, not saving.RELATED: AUTO INDUSTRY TO PRESS CONGRESS FOR $50B IN LOANSBear Stearns. Maximum taxpayer cost: $29 billion. What taxpayers got: Prevented an even worse meltdown in the financial markets--at least for a while.RELATED: HOW BANKRUPTCY WOULD WRECK GM AND CHRYSLERFannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Maximum taxpayer cost: $200 billion. What taxpayers get: The mortgage market won't completely collapse. Interest rates may even drop a little and credit gets a bit easier.RELATED: WHAT DOES FANNIE, FREDDIE TAKEOVER MEAN FOR YOU?IndyMac and 10 other banks. These insolvent banks had billions in deposits that were taken over by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Taxpayers won't foot the bill directly, because FDIC takeovers are funded by insurance that banks pay for. But those premiums are likely to rise across the industry, and banks may pass some of that cost onto consumers. What taxpayers get: They don't have to worry about losing their deposits just because their bank acts reckless.So far, all these bailouts add up to about $400 billion the government could end up doling out to Continue Reading

Yahoo to lay off 15% of workforce amid $400M cost-cutting

Struggling search engine company Yahoo Inc. said it plans to cut about 15% of its workforce as part of a $400 million cost-cutting effort intended to "simplify" the troubled Internet company.Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Yahoo plans to lay off about 1,500 employees and close five offices in Dubai, Mexico City, Buenos Aires, Madrid and Milan — with the bulk of cuts by the end of March, Yahoo said Tuesday.By the end of 2016, the online and mobile advertising company expects to have about 9,000 employees and fewer than 1,000 contractors, down from closer to 12,000 last year.The cuts were announced as part of Yahoo's newly announced goal to "simplify the company" amid criticisms that Mayer has failed to grow it through acquisitions and hiring. In addition to staff reductions, Yahoo will thin its online and mobile offerings to support those that generate the most revenue.Also, as the company attempts to separate its Internet advertising and media business from its $25 billion stake in Chinese Internet retailing giant Alibaba, Yahoo's board will entertain strategic proposals, which could potentially include either a sale of part of the company or a potential merger.Yahoo (YHOO) shares fell about 2% in after-hours trading Tuesday to $28.44, however, as shareholders reacted to the new plan and the news that Charles Schwab has stepped down from the board, marking the second director to resign in just two months. Shares sank 3% early Wednesday.Board member Max Levchin departed in December.Mayer's plan to simplify the business through downsizing is likely aimed at pleasing shareholders who have been calling on her to concede that her turnaround plan has failed and put the core Web businesses up for sale.But some Yahoo shareholders said they were not impressed by Tuesday's plan. Yahoo’s simplification strategy "does not fully address the core issues which Continue Reading