Arizona Wildfire Funding Headed for Gila County

Arizona Wildfire

Four hundred thousand in state taxpayer dollars will be open for assisting Gila County as the Watch Fire persist in eastern Arizona.

The fire is largely impacting the San Carlos Apache Tribe as over 1,000 acres have burned and some people have lost homes, according to Arizona’s Family. The money is coming from the Joint Heat Relief Initiative through the state Department of Emergency and Military Affairs, according to a news release.

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Rate of Office Vacancy Reaches Record High

Empty Office

The second quarter of 2024 saw the rate of office vacancy in the United States hit a record high total of 20.1 percent, according to Moody’s tracking.

As reported by Axios, the rise in office vacancy in the last several months has been unusual compared to past trends, as such rates usually only rise during economic downturns. Thus, the rate continuing to increase despite the economy remaining relatively stagnant is an indication of consumers’ and business owners’ ongoing negative sentiments about the current state of the economy.

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Inflation Falls Below Expectations as Economy Cools

People in grocery checkout line

Inflation ticked down slightly year-over-year in June as rising prices continue to weigh on average Americans’ finances, according to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) release on Wednesday.

The consumer price index (CPI), a broad measure of the price of everyday goods, increased 3.0 percent on an annual basis in June and decreased 0.1 percent month-over-month, compared to 3.3 percent in May, according to the BLS. Core CPI, which excludes the volatile categories of energy and food, remained high, rising 3.3 percent year-over-year in June, compared to 3.4 percent in May.

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Grant Applications Open for Veterans Organizations in Arizona

Veterans

Arizona veterans organizations can now apply for grants through the state’s Department of Veterans Services.

The application for the Veterans’ Donation Fund reopened on July 1 and is intended for 501(c) groups seeking $4,999 or less in state assistance. The state also sometimes doles out more significant veteran-related grants ranging from $5,000-75,000, but that application is currently closed. 

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Atlanta Officials Consider ‘Blight Tax’ for Neglected Properties

Neglected House

Atlanta officials are considering a new tax to target neglected properties that result in “blighted conditions and disinvestment” in some Atlanta neighborhoods.

Mayor Andre Dickens, working with Councilmember Byron Amos, announced legislation to create a “blight tax.” If approved, the legislation would allow the municipal court to tax neglected properties, which officials said would change the “economics of neglectful land speculation.”

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Biden White House Staff Is Largest Since Nixon, Costs Taxpayers $225 Million

Joe Biden Staff

President Joe Biden has spent $225 million paying hundreds of White House staffers since the 2021 fiscal year, federal records show.

The president’s spending on staffers totaled $60.8 million for the 2024 fiscal year, marking the highest level adjusted for inflation recorded over the past two presidential administrations, according to an analysis conducted by Open The Books. Biden employed over 500 staffers in three of the four fiscal years he has been in office, including 565 during the 2024 fiscal year, a headcount benchmark not hit since the Nixon administration in 1971.

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Economic Issues Top Voter Concerns in the Pennsylvania Swing State

Polling Station

Economic issues dominate the list of top concerns for Pennsylvania voters ahead of the Nov. 5 presidential election, a new poll finds.

A quarter of voters in the swing state ranked “inflation/cost of living” as the No. 1 issue facing Pennsylvanians in a survey released Tuesday from the Commonwealth Foundation, a conservative-libertarian think tank in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

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Unemployment Rate Climbs for Another Month as Job Gains Slump

Office Work

The U.S. added 206,000 nonfarm payroll jobs in June as the unemployment rate ticked up to 4.1%, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data released Friday.

Economists anticipated that 190,000 jobs would be added in June, far fewer than the initially reported 272,000 gain seen in May, and the unemployment rate would remain steady at 4%, according to U.S. News and World Report. Strong topline job gains in recent months have led some top economic officials, like Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell, to push back against claims that the economy is stalling, despite slow economic growth and high inflation.

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Funds for African Immigrants and Delivery Fee Among New Laws on the Books in Minnesota

African Immigrants

The latest round of legislation passed by the Minnesota Legislature includes $1 million in funding for the African Immigrants Community Services nonprofit and an added delivery fee on retail orders.

The Minnesota House of Representatives released a list of legislation which was due to go into effect on July 1, all of which were sponsored by members of the DFL. Chief among the pieces of legislation passed during the most recent session is new spending. $23.85 million was delegated to the Department of Employment and Economic Development for “job training and economic development programs in fiscal year 2025.” Included in that spending was “$1 million to African Immigrants Community Services for workforce development for new Americans” as well as “$1 million to the Minnesota Black Chamber of Commerce for technical support to Black-owned small businesses.” Furthermore, “the law also appropriates General Fund money to support programs through Explore Minnesota Tourism,” including “$400,000 to Ka Joog for Somali community and cultural festivals and events.”

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Michigan Budget Includes Tuition-Free Pre-K and Community College

Gretchen Whitmer

The recently passed Michigan budget would guarantee tuition-free community college for all residents, and expands access to tuition-free preschool.

The tuition-free community college program is paid for by $330 million in taxpayer dollars, an increase of $30 million from last year. The new program gets rid of income caps, so any student can receive free tuition at an in-district community college.

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Federal Judge Pauses Biden’s Partial Liquefied Natural Gas Export Ban

Judge James Cain Jr.

A federal judge on Monday temporarily blocked the Biden administration’s ban on new exports of liquified natural gas exports to non-free trade agreement countries.

Judge James Cain Jr. of the Western District of Louisiana issued a preliminary injunction against the U.S. Department of Energy’s partial LNG export ban after more than a dozen states sued, arguing the ban was illegal.

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Raise the Wage Ohio Toes Deadline for Petition Signature Submissions

Minimum Wage Protest

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose said Wednesday he expects Raise the Wage Ohio to turn in petition signatures for a proposed constitutional amendment that would raise the minimum wage, joining two other filings for the November ballot this week.

The Raise the Wage Ohio campaign, made up mostly of volunteers, needs 413,487 valid petition signatures for the amendment to reach the ballot.

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McMaster Removing $2.3 Million from South Carolina’s 2024-25 Budget

Henry McMaster

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster announced 21 budget vetoes totaling nearly $2.3 million from the Palmetto State’s fiscal 2024-25 budget.

The Republican governor announced his vetoes during a Wednesday media briefing, calling on state lawmakers to replace earmarks with merit-based and competitive grants. The budget includes more than 500 earmarks totaling $424.7 million.

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Biden Admin Contracts 1 Million Barrels from Emergency Gasoline Stockpile to ‘Lower Prices’ Ahead of July 4th

Gas Station

The Biden administration is selling off a million barrels of gasoline from an emergency reserve in a deliberate effort to cut prices ahead of the upcoming holiday weekend.

The Department of Energy (DOE) announced that it has awarded contracts to five energy companies to purchase the barrels the administration is releasing from the Northeast Gasoline Supply Reserve (NGSR), which is part of the federal Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) system. The NGSR releases are intended to “help lower gas prices ahead of the Fourth of July holiday,” according to DOE.

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Tennessee Sees $4.7 Billion Individual Income Increase From In-Migration

Bill Lee

Tennessee saw the fifth-largest population increase from other states between 2021 and 2022, according to new data released by the Internal Revenue Service.

Tennessee saw a net increase of nearly 60,600 during that calendar year, a population increase of 0.87% during the year, with a net increase of nearly $4.7 billion in adjusted gross income on individual tax returns.

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Overpayments Account for Nearly 75 Percent of Federal Improper Payments

Finances

The federal government reported $236 billion in improper payments in fiscal year 2023, with the vast majority coming from overpayments, according to a new watchdog report.

A U.S. Government Accountability Office report found 74% of improper payments – payments that shouldn’t have been made or were made in the wrong amount – were overpayments. Overpayments accounted for $175.1 billion of the total amount of improper payments in 2023. Overpayments are payments “in excess of what is due, and for which the excess amount, in theory, should or could be recovered,” according to the report.

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Report Shows 61 Percent of Renters Can’t Afford Median Apartment Rate in U.S.

Los Angeles Apartment Building

Due to inflation eating away at earnings and less supply of affordable housing, the majority of Americans today cannot afford median rent prices, according to a new report by the real estate company Redfin.

The analysis comes as other reports indicate that both homeowners and renters are struggling with high housing costs due to inflationary pressures, an inflated housing market, low supply and demand for affordable housing.

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Economists: Housing Costs to Remain Elevated for Foreseeable Future

Home Sales

Americans looking to buy a home may have to wait as housing costs are expected to remain elevated until 2026 or later, according to a note from Bank of America (BofA) economists published Monday.

Homebuyers are facing elevated interest rates due to sky-high inflation under President Joe Biden and a housing shortage exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic that has led Americans to be hesitant to move, according to BofA. As a result, economists at the bank expect home prices to rise a total of 4.5% throughout the course of 2024 and another 5.0% throughout 2025, before easing slightly in 2026.

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Cleveland Browns One of Next NFL Teams in Line with Large Taxpayer Stadium Subsidy Request

Cleveland Browns Stadium

Cleveland is one of the next cities asking for public funding for a renovation or new NFL stadium after the city councils of Charlotte and Jacksonville each approved more than $600 million in public funding.

Browns’ ownership, the Haslam Sports Group, has reportedly pitched Cleveland and Ohio state leadership on funding half of a potential $1.2 billion renovation of Cleveland Browns stadium or having state and local governments each pay $600 million of taxpayer funds – a total of $1.2 billion – toward building a new stadium in Brook Park.

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Jacksonville, Florida Will Pay $775 Million in Public Funds Toward $1.4 Billion Jaguars Renovation

J.C. Bradbury

The Jacksonville Jaguars became the second NFL team this week to get a large sum of public money for a stadium renovation when the City Council voted 14-1 to approve $775 million toward a $1.4 billion renovation of EverBank Stadium.

The Jaguars and NFL are expected to pay $625 million toward the project, using NFL G-4 loans along with funds from items such as naming rights through the new 30-year lease and non-relocation agreement.

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Atlanta Fed’s Bostic ‘Optimistic’ Economy Headed ‘In the Right Direction’

Raphael Bostic

The head of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta remains “quite optimistic that things are heading in the right direction.”

In a video message posted Thursday alongside a longer-form piece, Raphael Bostic, president and chief executive of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, said that after the inflation rate declined rapidly in the second half of 2023, it seemed to stall early this year.

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Sen. Bob Casey Confirms Democrats May Kill Trump Tax Cuts, Prompts Dave McCormick to Vow No Hike for ‘Middle Income Pennsylvanians’

U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) confirmed last Thursday that Democrats are still making decisions about tax cuts, including whether they will reverse the 2017 tax cuts championed by former President Donald Trump and other Republicans, including U.S. Senate nominee Dave McCormick.

Casey made the remarks to Roll Call after the publication noted that allowing the reduced tax rates established in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 to expire would violate President Joe Biden’s pledge not to increase taxes on those earning less than $400,000 per year.

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Michigan Museum Funding Could Raise Property Taxes

Tom Kuhn

A new Michigan policy could cost Oakland and Macomb county households thousands in higher property taxes.

The Michigan House recently approved House Bill 4177, seeking to subsidize two nonprofit museums run through the Wright and Detroit Historical Societies. Because they likely could not stay open through admission fees and donations alone, Oakland and Macomb County residents would pay up to $200,000 in property taxes over the next 10 years.

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Attorney General: Student Loan Ruling ‘a Huge Win for South Carolina’

Alan Wilson

South Carolina’s attorney general called a federal judge’s decision to block part of President Joe Biden’s latest push to delay or cancel roughly half a trillion dollars in student debt “a huge win for South Carolina.”

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree in Kansas and U.S. District Judge John Ross in Missouri issued separate rulings halting Biden’s plan, dubbed the Saving on a Valuable Education — or SAVE — Plan. Republican attorneys general, including South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson, filed a lawsuit challenging the plan.

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Ad Campaign Says Ohio State Hospital Expansion will Mean Higher Costs

Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center

A coalition of health insurers and employer groups is using a targeted ad campaign to call attention to private-public hospital expansions it says leads to higher premiums and out-of-pocket expenses.

The campaign comes as the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center continues to move forward with a $1.9 billion, 1.9-million-square-foot inpatient hospital expected to open in 2026.

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Nearly a Third of ‘Pro-Palestine’ Campus Protesters Had a Job Offer Rescinded, Survey Finds

Pro-Palestine protesters

A recent survey found that 3 in 10 college students or recent graduates had job offers rescinded as a result of their “pro-Palestine” activism.

Intelligent surveyed 672 students or recent college graduates who have engaged in anti-Israel activism and found that 29% of them had a job offer rescinded in the past six months and 55% believe there was bias against them in the hiring process because of their activism.

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Georgia Group Talks Rate Increase for Direct Care Workers

In Home Care

The fiscal 2025 budget, which Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp recently signed, includes $9.2 million for the Child and Parent Services Program and pay increases for direct care workers.

According to a national organization of family caregivers, the rate increases lawmakers passed are $6 per hour for direct care workers helping people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and $3 per hour for direct care workers supporting older adults.

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