Abby Rapoport

What's the Matter with Kansas, Tax Edition

While around the country, many Republican primary voters are up in arms that Mitt Romney only paid about 13 percent of his income in taxes last year, in Kansas, Governor Sam Brownback is pushing a proposal that would not only benefit wealthy Kansans but raise taxes on the state's poorest residents. A new report released yesterday argues that the plan will benefit some large corporations but fail to create jobs.

The plan gets rid of a number of tax deductions—including those for home mortgages and charitable giving. It also takes away the earned-income tax credit and food-sales tax rebate. As the AP noted last week:

In Baseball as in Life

I imagine being an Astros fan is not that different from being an old-style, Goldwater-type Republican. One day, you wake up and realize that you don't recognize the team you've spent your life rooting fo. In the case of the Astros, it's not so much that they've played poorly but that the new owner has already cut a deal to send my beloved team to the—ugh, yuck—American League in 2014.

Just How Does Mitt Romney's Wealth Stack Up?

In case there was any question, after the release of his tax returns, it's clear that Mitt Romney is rich, even by 1 percent standards.

But it's one thing to be rich compared with the general public. Some of our readers wondered just how Romney's wealth stacks up against his would-be peers: the presidents. Turns out, were he to be elected, Romney would be among the top four richest people to become president.

Texas Redistricting: Hurry Up and Wait

Friday, the Supreme Court sent a series of redistricting maps back to the panel of federal judges in San Antonio that drew them. Today, that panel decided to speed things up. In a five-page order Monday afternoon, the panel asked all parties in the redistricting case to be ready for a status hearing on January 27—rather than February 1.  The candidate filing deadline, currently set for next Wednesday, is also likely to be extended. The court explained that it will likely have to throw out the already-delayed primary date of April 3, unless all parties can agree to a set of interim maps and submit them to the court by February 6. That's about as likely as [insert your hell-freezing-over analogy here].

Rick Scott's Strange Math

Updated to clarify Texas' use of stimulus dollars.

I was surprised when I saw the headline, "Scott, lawmakers agree: Schools need at least $1 billion more." Florida governor Rick Scott kicked off his term last year with proposals to eliminate 7 percent of state government jobs and slash the state budget. He also cut the public-education budget by $1.3 billion. Now, as the Miami Herald reports, the governor is pushing for pumping money back to schools.

Well sort of.

Go Big or Go Home

For those watching labor fights, the two very close, hard-fought games for the AFC and NFC championships yesterday (I'm talking football here, people), might have echoed what's happening in Indianapolis, host city to this year's Super Bowl. The battle over collective bargaining in one of the country's original manufacturing havens has already spawned teams, rules, and some hard-hitting tackles. And soon, one side may be trying for a Hail Mary.

The State of the Week

Each Friday—well at least most Fridays—I'm going to sum up the big news happening in states around the country. To make it more interesting I'm naming a State of the Week where the biggest news came from. See something that's missing? Tell me: arapoport@prospect.org or on Twitter @RaRapoport.

And this week's State of the Week is ... Wisconsin!

Back to the (Redistricting) Drawing Board

AP Photo

You might think that since the Supreme Court made a decision today regarding the ongoing Texas redistricting saga, that, well, something had been decided. But let's just be clear on what is still up in the air:

1. Whether the maps are discriminatory based on the Voting Rights Act

2. The date of the primary, currently scheduled for April 3 with almost no one believing that's a realistic date

3. Just what the district lines will be

Life Imitating Art—and Parks

Scrolling through clips of state news, I happened on the latest from Idaho:

The Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation is launching a new program that allows vehicle owners to voluntarily pay a $10 fee when they register their cars that gives them access to 30 state parks in an effort to raise money for the embattled agency.

Director Nancy Merrill hopes the idea, modeled after a successful program in Michigan, will alleviate financial pressure on her agency that has been mounting since Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter moved to wean it from taxpayer support two years ago.

Common Sense Radicalism

AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli

Apparently California Gov. Jerry Brown missed the memo. Across the country, governors outlining educational priorities for their states have focused largely on more testing and doing away with teacher tenure. The approach is so in-vogue, it reaches across party lines. A few examples: Last week, South Dakota's Gov. Dennis Daugaard outlined his education reform package, including merit pay for high performing teachers and the right to fire those whose students fail to perform on tests two years in a row. On the east coast, New Jersey Gov.

Fumbling Towards an Exit

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

You remember that moment when the seventh-grade bully arrived in high school and was, in turn, bullied by the big kids? It's hard to know what you feel—some satisfaction, sure, but somewhere in there, there's bound to be some pity. And of course the big question of whether the experience will leave him humbler and more kind or just more eager to maintain power.

A Party with Pirattitude

Question: What do some disgruntled pirates do when they want to advocate for more privacy rights and government transparency?

Answer: They form a political p-ARRR-ty. (For those of you who don't get pirate humor, well, I'm sorry.)

Recalling History

Governor Lynn Frazier of North Dakota was recalled in 1921 after accusations that he was a socialist. AP Photo

Yesterday, Wisconsin activists turned in more than one million petitions supporting the recall of Scott Walker. It was almost double the number they needed to turn in. The Republican governor prompted mass protests last year when he slashed public-employee benefits and then began dismantling collective-bargaining rights in the state. Unions, Democrats, and others affected by the policies were all eager for political payback.  "This is the most participated major recall in American history," Meagan Mahaffey, executive director of the coordinating group United Wisconsin, told me with evident pride.

The Mickey Mouse Defense

While Democrats celebrate the million petitions turned in today supporting a recall of Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, Badger state Republicans are hoping that the best offense is a good defense.

"Of course the Democrats got a million signatures," said Ben Sparks, spokesperson for the Wisconsin GOP. "They're allowing individuals to sign up 80 times and they're allowing Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny to go on the rolls."

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