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US States Budgets Get Cash Relief

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Struggling states and towns got a dose of badly needed money this summer from a Cash for Clunkers program that poured hundreds of millions of dollars of tax revenue into their budgets.
Now, like the auto industry, recession-ravaged government are seeing revenue fall off as car buyers take a breather from the frenzied sales of July and August. That means less money for schools, roads, public safety and other projects that get much of their funding from states tax collections.
And while officials welcomed the shot in the arm, the extra clunkers money won’t come close to filling the gaping holes in their budgets or do much to solve the worst revenue downturn in decades.
“It is chump change,” said David Zin, an economist with the Michigan state senate’s fiscal agency.
State and city officials say their budget problems are too severe for one government programme to fix.
“Fifty-thousand is not to be sneezed at,” Dean Rich, finance director of O’Fallon, III, said of the city expected tax gain from its 16 car dealerships. But it’s not enough to prevent a job freeze and cuts to capital project for the town of 29,000 people.
“It’s not the windfall that is going to fix the $1 million shortage we have this year” he said.
Like most governments, O’Fallon suffered during the recession as people facing job losses, reduced pay, lost homes and general unease over the ecoomy snapped their wallets shut. That means big drops in sales tax, which makes up around half of many state budgets. Sales of cars and trucks, big-ticket items with high price tags, are a big component of sales tax collections.
Cash for Clunkers held some promise-customers bought nearly 700,000 new vehicles during late July and August, taking advantage of rebates of up to $4,500 on new cars in return for trading in their older vehicles. The programme ended up tripling the size of tis orginal $1 billion price tag due to its broad popularity. For government budget offices, that represented some rare good news.
The auto forecaster Edmunds.com estimated that the average clunker sales price was $26,321, meaning roughly $18 billion worth of new vehicles were sold under the programme. Multiplied by the average combined state and local sales tax of 7.5 per cent, the total tax bill amounts to a loose estimate of $1.36 billion.
But here’s some perspective – the budget shortfall of Michigan alone, the symbolic heartland of the U.S. auto industry, amounts to $2.8 billion. And it pales in comparison to the $240 billion that states collected in total general sales taxes in 2008.
“That’s more than a drop in the bucket…but not much more for state budgets,” said Robert Ward, director of fiscal studies for the Rockefeller Institute of Government in New York.
The taxes brought in by clunkers offered a summer shot of adrenaline for most states. The funds – often earmarked for school aid, highway repairs and law enforcement – came at a time when they were struggling with big shortfalls.
Kentucky reported that clunkers taxes propped up its Road Fund, which supports the state’s network of roadways. Motor vehicle usage taxes grew 11.4 per cent to $36 million in August, helping keep the fund flat for the month. The state estimates it can now afford to see receipts fall more than 4 per cent for the rest of fiscal year and still meet its budget forecasts.
Legislative estimates in Michigan show the state may have taken in $39 million from Cash for Clunkers. About a third of that money is devoted to education.
Massachusetts reported that motor vehicle sales tax revenue rose nearly 36 per cent in August from a year earlier, higher than the state’s monthly target. That gain, combined with a rise in the overall sales tax that month, pushed vehicle tax collections above the monthly goal.
The extra money may be a help, but state budget officials say it’s minor compared with their huge problems.
Kentucky officials have warned that until unemployment improves – about 11 per cent of states residents are now jobless – tax revenues will remain in the doldrums.
In Michigan, where the states sales tax is the major source of aid for schools, lawmakrers proposed cutting $218 per pupil from the aid the state government gives to local school districts. That’s despite the clunkers money and extra vehicle sales tax revnue from laid off auto workers who got vouchers for new cars as part of their severance. Sales tax collections are still down 9 per cent.
Auto sales nationally fell 41 per cent from August to September, a drop caused largely by people who would have normally waited a few months to buy a new vehicle rushing in to take advantage of the federal programme’s big rebates.
That hangover showed up in Massachusetts sales tax collections last month, which were 5 per cent below forecasts. That worries Robert Bliss, a spokesman for the state revenue department.
“Has the pool been drained as a result of this programme for the next couple of months? That is the question,” he said.

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LASG Begins Vehicle Parking Lanes Demacation

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The Lagos State Parking Authority (LASPA) has revealed it will today commence creating additional Vehicle Parking Lanes in some selected locations across the State.
The Authority stated that all efforts have been geared towards improving the parking system of the State.
Speaking on the planned initiative on Friday in Ikeja, the General Manager of LASPA, Mrs. Adebisi Adelabu, stated that the vehicle parking lane mark exercise, which will begin with designated streets within Surulere, Ikoyi, Lekki, Obalende, Ikeja and Victoria Island axis of the State, is a step towards improving street parking from 2023.
Adelabu noted that the Parking Lane Markings will further guide motorists and pedestrians on appropriate parking regulations and spaces, minimise indiscriminate parking, confusion and uncertainty, while conveying a range of information to residents on parking procedures within each specified environment.
According to her, the lane markings will also include special consideration for people living with disabilities and signposts for parking directives, among other features.
The General Manager, however, solicited the understanding of residents within the locations who might be affected by any inconvenience the process might cause, assuring that the government is working rigorously in regulating and improving the parking culture as part of its Traffic Management and Transportation Agenda to ensure parking is convenient, safe and secure across the state.
Recall that the Authority had recently unveiled plans to begin full implementation of parking policy in the second quarter of 2023 and has continued to sensitise the public on the need to embrace the parking culture.

By; Nkpemenyie Mcdominic, Lagos

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NIMASA Builds Maritime Institutes, Skill Acquisition Centres In Zones

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Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Bashir Yusuf Jamoh, has revealed that the agency is embarking on building six skill acquisition centres, and maritime institutes in each geopolitical zone of the country.
He disclosed this while receiving the Minister of Transportation, Dr. Mu’azu Jaji Sambo, and the Secretary General of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), Mr. Kitack Lim, during the commissioning of the new NIMASA head office in Victoria Island recently.
The NIMASA boss said the agency has already started building of ten of its offices in various states of the country, saying that 2022 is dedicated for projects.
“We dedicated 2022 as projects year and we have more than ten projects ongoing now, but we expect that before the end of this administration, we will commission them.
“Parts of the projects have something to do with human elements.
“We have six skill acquisition centres all over Nigeria, one per political zone, and we have six maritime institute projects. Each geopolitical zone has a university with maritime institute, just to build maritime assets,’’ he said.
He thanked the Minister for always being there, and also expressed appreciatiin to the IMO Secretary General for his visit to Nigeria, noting that he is the second IMO Secretary General to visit Nigeria, with the last visit having taken place 15 years ago.
“I am particularly delighted that he is commissioning this building today. He promised to come and has kept his promise”, he added.

By: Nkpemenyie Mcdominic, Lagos

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FG Borrows N24trn From CBN Amid Fiscal Risks

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Federal Government of Nigeria has borrowed N6.31trillion from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) through Ways and Means Advances in 10 months.
This amount has increased the total amount the Federal Government got from the CBN from N17.46trillion in December 2021 to N23.77trillion in October 2022.
It does not include the N23.77trillion the Federal Government is already owing CBN that is part of the country’s total public debt stock, which stood at N42.84trillion as at June 2022, according to the Debt Management Office.
The public debt stock only includes the debts of the Federal Government of Nigeria, the 36 state governments, and the Federal Capital Territory.
Ways and Means Advances is a loan facility through which the CBN finances the shortfalls in the government’s budget.
Section 38 of the CBN Act, 2007, states that the CBN may grant temporary advances to the Federal Government with regard to temporary deficiency of budget revenue at such rate of interest as the bank may determine.
The Act read in part, “The total amount of such advances outstanding shall not at any time exceed five per cent of the previous year’s actual revenue of the Federal Government.
“All advances shall be repaid as soon as possible and shall, in any event, be repayable by the end of the Federal Government financial year in which they are granted and if such advances remain unpaid at the end of the year, the power of the bank to grant such further advances in any subsequent year shall not be exercisable, unless the outstanding advances have been repaid.”
The CBN, however, said on its website that the Federal Government’s borrowing from it through the Ways and Means Advances could have adverse effects on the bank’s monetary policy to the detriment of domestic prices and exchange rates.
“The direct consequence of central bank’s financing of deficits are distortions or surges in the monetary base leading to adverse effects on domestic prices and exchange rates i.e macroeconomic instability because of excess liquidity that has been injected into the economy,” it said.
The apex bank had last November warned the Federal  Government against financing deficits by borrowing from the CBN through the Ways and Means Advances, saying this putd fiscal pressures on the country’s expenditures.
Despite warnings from experts and organisations, the Federal Government has kept borrowing from the CBN to fund budget deficits.
The Tide source noted that the Federal Government paid an interest of N2.03trillion from January 2020 to November 2021 on the loans it got from the CBN through the Ways and Means Advances.
It was also reported that the Federal Government paid an interest of N405.93billion from January 2022 to April 2022 on the loans it got from the CBN.
Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Cowry Asset Management Limited, Mr Johnson Chukwu, recently said the Central Bank’s lending to the government was putting pressure on the exchange rate and the inflation rate, with “liquidity that has no productivity attached to it coming into the system.”
An economist, Dr Aliyu Ilias, criticised the government for its constant reliance on borrowing, which was unhealthy for the economy.
He further urged the government to seek better ways of generating revenue rather than persistently borrowing from the apex bank.

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