The Economy Today: Solar Big Bang

Headlines from Texas, Massachusetts, Nevada, Washington state, and elsewhere

National papers continue to lead with the Madoff sentencing. Yesterday, Judge Danny Chin sentenced the Ponzi schemer to the maximum 150 years in prison.

In consumer economic news, USA Today reports that credit-card companies have raised interest and balance-transfer rates as a result of the new credit card reform enacted by the White House. While card issuers insist this is a necessary strategy to make up for falling revenue, critics, including vocal New York Senator Chuck Schumer slammed the credit-card companies for taking advantage of strapped consumers.

California isn’t the only state with budget trouble, The Wall Street Journal reports. Ten states including Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Delaware, Illinois, Ohio, and Connecticut, don’t have signed budgets and many state legislatures are locked in debate about what programs to cut and how to make do with less tax revenue.

In regional headlines, the recession is forcing Texas high-school students to reconsider their college plans. Nevada’s Web site that’s supposed to track how stimulus money is spent hasn’t issued a news release since March, drawing criticism from watchdogs. In Washington state, stimulus money has created summer jobs for teenagers. And, Massachusetts solar panel projects will get a boost from stimulus money.

The debate over how many jobs are saved or created as a result of the stimulus bill is in action in Texas. While the bill is expected to create jobs, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the total number of jobs may barely outweigh the number lost as a result of the recession. Transportation and green industry projects are among the areas that may see job creation, but most will be temporary positions funded by stimulus dollars that will disappear after one or two years.

Also, in Texas, the Austin American-Statesman reports that immigrant-owned businesses in the state may be disproportionately hurt in this recession. While Texas officials say that haven’t isolated specific statistics for immigrants’ businesses, some experts say that declined buying power among all Americans has hurt small family businesses. In Texas, immigrants make up 30 percent of new business owners. Anecdotal evidence also suggests that some Mexicans living in Texas may be returning home because jobs have dried up.

The Dallas Morning News reports that shrinking financial aid packages and tightening family budgets are forcing some college seniors to reconsider their college plans. Private colleges and far away dream schools are sacrificed because of economic concerns. According to one survey, more than 70 percent of high schools reported that their students have chosen to attend more affordable schools. State schools are becoming increasingly popular for their affordability. What’s more, some college students are considering a transfer to more affordable schools in the middle of college.

Washington state teens may earning some pocket money for college this summer, thanks to the stimulus bill, The Seattle Times reports. The state was given $19.9 million to employ young adults between the ages of 16 and 19. Many of the jobs offer training in a specialized skill such as baking, construction, and manufacturing. Some teens got positions with the Fish and Wildlife Service, learning how to handle salmon at local hatcheries.

In yet another stories about schools with shortfalls, The Chico Enterprise Record reports that some north California school districts will struggle to meet budgets even with the stimulus moneys coming in.

Massachusetts state will add $20 million of federal funds to its solar-power project, The Boston Globe reports. The state’s energy secretary has called the expansion of solar-power facilities, a “solar big bang.” The state currently produces 11 megawatts through solar panels, but Governor Deval Patrkick set a goal that Massachusetts would make 250 megawatts in solar capacity by 2017.

A ProPublica investigation has found that Nevada has one of the worst stimulus accountability Web sites, while American Samoa has one of the best sites, The Las Vegas Sun reports. Nevada has to track $1.45 billion but the state hasn’t issued an update since March. One estimate puts the price tag on a better Web site at $35,000, a small price for accountability.

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Katia Bachko is on staff at The New Yorker.