The Economy Today: Superheroes and Coupon Queens

News from California, Maine, Colorado, and elsewhere

In national headlines, The New York Times reports on the new credit-card measures that Congress passed yesterday, which will increase restrictions on interest rate increases and on when credit cards can charge late fees. USAToday goes over what the legislation doesn’t do. (Also, in order to get the legislation passed, another unrelated measure was approved as well, allowing gun licensees to take armed weapons into national parks and wildlife refuges.) The Washington Post reports a “spring thaw” throughout the financial system due to “a deepening confidence from financial markets that the government is prepared to take aggressive action.”

The big news in California is the voter rejection of ballot measures designed to help the state ease its huge budget deficit, and the deep budget cuts that are now on the table, including those for schools. Bill Maher, in an op-ed for the LAT, says superheroes can’t solve California’s problems, particularly when the state governs by ballot initiative.

In Maine, according to the Portland Press Herald, legislators are scrambling to address the concerns of energy companies that are threatening to take their work—and the jobs they would bring—to other parts of the country if a bill passes that could delay the start of several high-budget energy projects until December or beyond. The energy companies, which are applying for federal loan guarantees housed in the economic stimulus package, are demanding regulatory certainty.

Facing roads in disrepair and a backlog of potholes, the Oregon legislature is considering “a $300 million-a-year package of taxes and fees for road construction and repair” that would be the biggest revenue boost to transportation in the state for years. It would also prevent local jurisdictions from raising their own money for roads.

Drug crime and new jobs? A Denver Post article draws a (slightly dubious) connection between a new economic development bill that gives companies a state income-tax credit “if they choose Colorado over competing states for establishment of at least 20 new jobs,” and companies near the Mexican border that are possibly looking to move over fears of drug-related violence and crime.

Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette runs a profile of the “coupon queen,” Susan Samtur, who with her husband is conducting a circuit of “savings-receptive communities” to help boost their Web site,, and their print publication, the Refundle Bundle Magazine. Writes the Post-Gazette: “By the time employee Jeff Albinger finished totalling the cost of Mrs. Samtur’s groceries — $168.94 — and then subtracting the value of her 64 coupons (eight were doubled), the screen behind him flashed a mere $7.13.”

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Jane Kim is a writer in New York.