Friday Roundup: States experiment, special session call, workforce, income tax & housing,economic growth

There are always a few items we’ve read during the week that deserve more attention but don’t make it into our regular posts. So we bundle them for the Friday roundup.

Here’s this week’s bundle:

The Orange County Register (Kotkin): The new state role models

With Congress on what appears to be a permanent hold, the search for a workable political model now shifts increasingly to states and localities. Today America’s divergent geographies resemble separate planets, with policy agendas from immigration and climate change that vary wildly from place to place.

The greatest divide lies between the deep blue states, notably California, and progressive America’s network of large urban centers and the generally less dense, more suburban-dominated red states. Their policy prescriptions may vary, but, if allowed to continue, the differing jurisdictions could end up serving as what Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis called “laboratories of democracy.”

So, the critical question remains what policies work best. The answers may not be as simple as ideologues on the left and right might claim, but instead suggest, as President Bill Clinton once did, that our stunning diversity cannot easily follow a single political script.

Seattle Times (Evans op-ed): Call the Legislature back to pass capital budget, fix water-rights ruling

It’s time for Gov. Jay Inslee, together with Republicans and Democrats in both houses of the Legislature, to put partisanship aside and solve two pressing problems. Washington state needs a capital budget and a fix to the state Supreme Court’s Hirst decision, which has impacted homebuilding in rural areas.

The Lens: Seattle’s income tax could lead to even higher home, rental prices, industry leaders say

One of the justifications cited in the city ordinance for Seattle’s income tax is to address the “affordable housing crisis.” However, real estate industry leaders warn that if the tax is implemented it could do just the opposite by raising the costs of selling a home or maintaining a rental property…

Among the types of incomes listed is “capital gains,” which includes house sales.

In September, the median price for a Seattle house sold was over $700,000 — well above both income thresholds. For home sales above these income thresholds, the seller would pay the 2.25 percent income tax on top of the combined city/state 1.78 percent real estate excise tax (REET).

National Conference of State Legislatures: There are Plenty of Jobs Available, But Are There Enough Skilled Workers to Fill then?

The days of rote assembly line work—when workers simply had to know their machine or their step in the production process—are long gone, replaced by new technology and automation that have improved the products or the processes used to create them. Such “advanced manufacturing” requires skilled employees who are more adaptable and flexible than in previous years—workers who understand how the entire production process works. They must be familiar with a variety of machines and have the critical thinking and computer skills (some would add math and reading skills) needed to fix the machines or the processes when they fail.

…As technology advances, so must the next generation of workers. But, as MIT researchers Weaver and Osterman point out, it’s misleading to say that a low-quality labor supply is the sole reason for jobs going unfulfilled.

What matters more in filling jobs, they say, is creating a strong connection between the institutions that train workers and the employers who need them.

Econbrowser (Hamilton): Steady economic growth continues [good graphs]

The Bureau of Economic Analysis announced today that U.S. real GDP grew at a 3.0% annual rate in the third quarter. That is close to the long-term historical average of 3.1%, and better than the 2.1% we’ve seen on average since the Great Recession ended in 2009.

Solid growth over the last two quarters has brought our Econbrowser Recession Indicator Indexdown to 3.3%. The U.S. remains clearly in the expansion phase of the business cycle.