From The Wall Street Journal
NO SOONER had Congress passed COVID relief and a budget bill totaling $2.3 trillion on Monday than Democrats were already demanding more. Joe Biden called it a mere “down payment” and Speaker Nancy Pelosi said it is “a first step.” They want bailouts for the states in particular, even as the latest Census report shows states are doing far better than they claim.
States are also doing very well in this latest COVID bill. Start with the $26 billion for transit agencies, airports and shovel-ready public works.
There’s also $22 billion for the states for COVID testing and contact tracing, though insurers and the feds cover the cost of tests. States will use it for more budget backfill. The Los Angeles Times reported last month that 25 LA County firefighters had made more than $100,000 on average in overtime by ferrying test supplies, most of which was reimbursed by federal Cares Act funds.
Education will get a whopping $82 billion, about $54 billion of which will go to K-12 schools though many are closed and employ fewer staff. That’s about as much as the federal government spends on K-12 in a normal year. The bill also provides $3.2 billion for broadband for low-income families, so public schools don’t have to pay for that.
States will also benefit from the federal enhanced $300 weekly unemployment benefits, which are taxable income in most states.
At the same time, wages and salaries increased significantly more in states that allowed more businesses to reopen such as Arizona (4.7%), South Dakota (5.5%), Florida (1.7%) and Wisconsin (2.9%) than in states that maintained stricter lockdowns like New York (-1.6%), New Jersey (-1%), Illinois (0.2%) and California (2.3%). See the nearby charts.
Florida took an earnings hit because its hospitality industry was slammed especially hard by the pandemic. Silicon Valley, on the other hand, has remained buoyant, with California’s professional, scientific and tech service earnings up 4.5% year-over-year, though less than in Idaho (7.4%) and Utah (8.5%), which have benefited from California’s tech job outsourcing.
The Golden State is also rolling in tax revenue amid the stock market’s boom and tech initial public offerings. Its November revenues were 16.4% higher year-over-year and so far this fiscal year are 20.4% above the state’s spring estimate.
The Census Bureau reported last week that total state and local government tax revenues for the 12 months ending in September were up $46.4 billion (3%) year-over-year. Personal income tax revenue has increased 3.3% and property tax revenues 4.7% while sales taxes have dipped a mere 0.4%.
The Federal Reserve’s interventions have lifted housing prices and stock-market capital gains. Increased asset values have also produced a “wealth effect,” which in addition to government transfer payments has boosted spending. The bottom 20% of households account for 9% of consumer spending compared to 39% by the top 20%.
Democrats aren’t talking about all this because they want to plead poverty as the Biden Administration takes power. But state and local governments have already received plenty of federal Covid cash. They want more so they can pay off public unions and avoid reforming their runaway pensions. The next Congress should do taxpayers a favor and just say no, we already gave at the office.