Thursday, March 26, 2009

Create Your Own Headlines!

AUSTIN – Senate Republican leaders keep saying the state has no money and can't launch big initiatives to help Texas families reeling from the recession – even with billions of dollars of federal economic stimulus money in a two-year budget that could total $177 billion.

The plan, which the Senate Finance Committee is expected to approve soon, highlights a new fiscal reality that is likely to frustrate Texas lawmakers and residents for years to come: budgets with little leeway.

There are several reasons, but the biggest is that the GOP-controlled Legislature agreed to shift education costs so local property taxes can be cut. Texas already ranks last in state spending per capita, so deeper cuts to offset the education funding are unlikely. And politically, tax increases are off the table.

NEW YORK ( -- The U.S. economy suffered its largest drop in 26 years during the fourth quarter, according to a report from the government.

The nation's gross domestic product, the broadest measure of economic activity, fell at an annual rate of 6.3% during the final three months of 2008. That's slightly worse than the government's previous estimate of a 6.2% drop in the period.

Economists surveyed by had forecast that GDP would fall at a 6.6% rate in the latest reading.

The drop is the biggest one-quarter decline in this key measure since the first three months of 1982.

The report showed broad based declines across various measures of economic activity. Spending by consumers fell at a 4.3% rate, with purchases of large ticket items plunging 22%. Investment in housing fell 23% from already depressed levels, completing three straight years of declines in that sector.

Investment in equipment and software, taken as a measure of business spending, plunged at a 28% rate. Exports tumbled at a 24% rate.

The economic problems have obviously not ended with the fourth quarter report. Economists surveyed by the National Association for Business Economics forecast a 5% rate of decline in the first quarter, which ends Tuesday, followed by a 1.7% drop in the second quarter.

Oscar is back on the March.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences plans to stage Hollywood's big event on March 7, rather than in late February, to avoid a collision with the closing ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, Canada.

"Why have two gigantic, spectacular events happen on the same day, particularly these days?" academy President Sid Ganis asked Wednesday. "The Olympics have some 237 events and we are one big event, so it was easier for us to move and we were happy to do it."

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