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|2013 Update on the Panama Canal Expansion and Ports in the Atlantic and Gulf Coast States
The ongoing Panama Canal expansion is perhaps the most transformative global transportation project now in progress. Upon completion in 2014, the expanded Panama Canal will facilitate an even greater flow of trade between Asia and the Americas and will substantially impact the volume of trade reaching Gulf and Atlantic Coast ports in the United States. The impetus for the expansion of the Canal, approved by the people of Panama in October 2006, sprang from that nation's desire to continue as a pivotal player in global trade patterns and strategically leverage its greatest asset – the Panama Canal – for its own economic well-being. This SLC Issue Alert examines the latest developments with regard to the expansion project.
|Healthcare Reform: Exchanges and the Expansion of Medicaid
On June 28, the United States Supreme Court ruled that most of the requirements laid out by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) were Constitutional, including the requirement for states to either establish health insurance exchanges by 2014 or have the federal government do so. Also, while the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government could not tie all Medicaid funding to a mandatory expansion, states have the opportunity to increase eligibility levels with an associated federal matching percentage, which will diminish through 2020, when the matching percentage will stabilize at 90 percent. Decisions on implementing a health insurance exchange and expanding Medicaid will be the top public health priorities for states in the upcoming year. States will play a huge role in the implementation of the ACA, and these complicated decisions undoubtedly will have a major impact on state budgets, businesses and individual citizens.
This Issue Alert from the Southern Legislative Conference provides an overview of the choices and potential consequences of state decisions.
|Update: The Panama Canal Expansion and the SLC States
The ongoing Panama Canal expansion is perhaps the most transformative global transportation project currently in progress. Upon completion in 2014, the expanded Panama Canal will facilitate an even greater flow of trade between Asia and the Americas and substantially impact the volume of trade reaching Gulf and East Coast ports in the United States. The impetus for the expansion of the Canal, approved by the people of Panama in October 2006, sprang from that nation's desire to continue to be a pivotal player in global trade patterns and strategically leverage its greatest asset – the Panama Canal – for its own economic wellbeing. For the nation of Panama (the only port in the world with terminals in two oceans), the Canal plays an extraordinary role, impacting practically every aspect of society; at the economic level, economic activity flowing from the Canal accounts for nearly 15 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), a clear indication of the enormous economic footprint of the Canal on the nation. The expansion project not only will ensure the Canal''s dominance as one of the most critical global transportation linchpins, it also will strengthen the linkages between Asia, the United States and Latin America.
|Public Pensions: Emerging Trends
Public pension systems continue to face significant challenges, a trend that has continued for more than a decade. While public pension difficulties alone would not be a destabilizing force on the economy, the fact that every other element of our nation's retirement architecture also faces complex challenges requires the urgent attention of policymakers at all levels of government. The funding difficulties facing the Social Security and Medicare systems; the rising funding gap at corporate pension plans; record deficits at the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (or PBGC, the federal entity that insures the benefits of private pension plans); low personal savings rate of so many Americans alongside the minimal amounts they have set aside for retirement; the "graying" of America with an increasing number of Americans now reaching retirement age and living longer; and the aforementioned public pension challenges cumulatively amount to a tsunami of red ink.
|Municipal Bonds: Trends in 2011
In December 2010, there was a great deal of speculation that dozens of cities and local governments would default on their municipal bond debt obligations amounting to hundreds of billions of dollars within a year. According to this line of thinking, this cataclysmic outcome would require states to bail out these municipalities, an outcome that, given the tenuous fiscal position of states, in turn would require the federal government to bail out the states. This SLC Regional Resource examines how the municipal bond market fared in 2011, if fears expressed by certain experts regarding widespread bond defaults were realized, if investors shed their holdings in municipal bonds and fled to other asset categories and a number of related topics.