The Economy Today: Rise of the Gleaners

News from New Mexico, Florida, Texas, and elsewhere

In Texas, we see stories about stimulus checks, tax breaks, and hurricane funds. The Gainesville Daily Register notes that $250 stimulus checks for Social Security recipients will begin to be administered next month. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, meanwhile, covers the federal budget conference report, which the House and Senate both approved yesterday; in it was a deductibility provision that makes permanent a tax break for residents of states without an income tax, including Texas, enabling them to deduct state and local sales taxes on federal returns.

The Galveston County Daily News writes that county commissioners still haven’t developed a plan to distribute $166 million in Hurricane Ike housing and infrastructure repair and rebuilding grants, and have until May 15 to do so (so that cities can file requests by June). The $166 million is the amount allotted to the county for distribution to the areas surrounding Galveston; 60 percent of it will go to housing repair, with the rest largely going to fix water and sewage systems.

The Miami Herald publishes an AP report on gleaning: “A growing army of needy people and volunteers are descending on farms, fields and backyards across the nation in search of leftover produce that might otherwise go to waste.” One local gleaning program was started by a Salvation Army staffer “to supplement food boxes given to needy families who too often rely on fast food and discount retailers for high-fat, high-sugar foods that can lead to health problems.” Also from Miami comes a story about how, despite layoffs and cutbacks (or because of it), many companies are footing the bill for their employees to take part in the morale-building Miami Corporate Run.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that a long-planned land swap deal that the city has been planning in Santa Fe’s Northwest Quadrant may be stalled due to the current housing market. The project would’ve included affordable housing and, through some market-rate houses, generated revenue for the city. The Roswell Daily Record, meanwhile, discusses an upcoming vote on two school bonds worth $23 million. Among other things, the bond income would pay to renovate high school science labs in a school district that has twelve of its schools on the state’s list of 100 most-in-need-of-repair schools. The district superintendent argues that the bonds “would actually help the Roswell economy by drawing businesses that value a good local school system.”

The Santa Fe Times reports that New Mexico will get $4 million through the Veterans Administration as a part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The money will be used to make investments at the VA medical center in Albuquerque and for improvements at two different veterans’ cemeteries.

Here’s to some California dreamin’. In Riverside, California, the Press-Enterprise reports on the findings of a new Field Poll that shows California voters are opposed to raising taxes to solve the state’s budget problems (it faces a shortfall of at least $8 billion through June 2010), but also “want to preserve current spending levels across the majority of state government.”

In other Golden State news, the North County Times leads with a story about fears that California’s pension plan, CalPERS, is unsustainable. It’s based on a report from the California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility showing that 4,818 employees statewide earn more than $100,000 in state pensions, at a time when the CalPERS portfolio has been battered by the roiling financial markets. And in southern California, the Pasadena police department may use its federal stimulus funding to bolster three youth programs—including a cadet program—that are threatened by possible budget cuts, while the South Pasadena Police Department, the Pasadena Star-News reports, may use its $19,000 to “purchase a portion of a police car.”

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Jane Kim is a writer in New York.