Another Drop in Oil Rig Production

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Baker Hughes is showing another 43 oil rigs taken out of production which means it now has passed the “500 Mark” of rigs out of production. The total count of rigs out of production compared to this time last year now stands at 502.

City of Chicago Downgraded by Moody’s

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Via Economic Policy Journal:

Moody’s Investors Service has downgraded Chicago’s debt rating, citing its overwhelming pension burden. Moody’s dropped the city’s rating to Baa2.

A rating of Baa2 is eight notches below the highest debt rating of Aaa.

Moody’s said in its statement its outlook for the city remains negative. A drop of two more notches would make mean the city’s bonds would become“junk” bonds.

“We strongly disagree with Moody’s decision to reduce the city’s credit rating and would note that Moody’s has been consistently and substantially out of step with the other rating agencies, ignoring the progress that has been achieved,” a spokeswoman for Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Kelley Quinn, said in a statement.

Chicago has more than $8 billion in taxpayer-backed general obligation debt, as well as roughly $800 million in additional bonds backed by sales tax and motor fuel tax revenues.

Canada Investing in Indiana’s I-69 Project

Indiana currently is in the middle of the I-69 Highway project. Much of the financing for “Phase 5” made history but many didn’t take notice of why.

The I-69 Section 5 project will upgrade 21 miles of SR 37 (an existing four-lane divided highway) between Bloomington and Martinsville, Indiana to full Interstate standards. The $325 million project includes four new interchanges and four new overpasses, in addition to improvements at existing interchanges and additional travel lanes in urban areas along the corridor.

In April 2014 Canada’s Public Sector Pension Investment Board (which also holds a minority equity stake in Isolux Infrastructure) took a 49 percent equity stake in the concession company through its affiliate Infra-PSP Canada; this represents the first upfront direct investment in a U.S. P3 project by an international public pension fund. The partners reached financial close in July 2014, and construction is scheduled to take 28 months, with the project slated to open by the end of 2016.


JD Supra Advisor noted foreign investment in U.S. infrastructure projects like Indiana is a test run and stability is key for any future investments.

Given the long term nature of a P3 investment, political and regulatory stability is essential to encouraging investment. For overseas investors in the US market, this will require confidence that there is political and public acceptance of private sector investment in infrastructure.

MLB Spring Training Helps Players Pay Less Taxes

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While baseball purist fans rejoice in spring training opening up, so do the players not just for the game but also their paychecks. Spring training camps are located in Arizona and Florida which helps players pay less since they are legally working in those states. This helps cushion the tax blow they receive from the states they play in during the regular season.

Sean Packard, CPA, who is Director of Tax at OFS. He specializes in tax planning and the preparation of tax returns for pro athletes shared this tax benefit with Forbes.com:

Spring training is an opportunity for players to escape state income taxes on roughly 20% of their income. Professional athletes pay taxes in all states in which they play. This is known as the “jock tax.” Most states calculate a player’s jock tax based on the number of duty days spent inside the state divided by the total days a player works.

Unlike most sports, where preseason training occurs near the team’s home, spring training takes place in one of two states, Florida or Arizona. Florida does not have an income tax and while Arizona does, it does not begin taxing professional athletes until the beginning of their teams’ regular season. This means that duty days spent in the state prior to the season do not count as taxable days. Holding spring training in these two tax havens can save elite players hundreds of thousands of dollars in state income taxes.

Packard provides an example of how money a player can save just at spring training.

The portion of Santana’s salary allocable to spring training under the duty day calculation is $5.355 million. If the Mets held spring training in New York instead of Florida, this income would be allocated to New York and subject to their 8.82% income tax. But because the Florida (and Arizona) climate is more conducive to baseball in February, Santana will save $472,000 in state income taxes.

Obamacare Enrollees Getting Taxed

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Last week I reported H&R Block website had a new feel good name for one Obamacare tax.  This week new analysis comes from Americans for Tax Reform about more taxes within the law:

The majority (52 percent) of Obamacare enrollees receiving an advance premium tax credit to purchase Obamacare insurance is facing the prospect of paying back $530 of that tax credit to the IRS, according to a new study from H&R Block.  This clawback is reducing the refunds for these taxpayers by 17 percent this filing season.

Families of four earning less than $97,000 are eligible for a credit.  So is a single mother with two children earning less than $80,000 and an unmarried/childless taxpayer earning less than about $12,000.  By definition, these are the lowest income recipients of Obamacare health insurance outside the Medicaid-eligible population.  Higher income taxpayers received no tax subsidy and aren’t facing this tax season surprise.

According to the study, a majority of credit recipients–52 percent–have had to pay back the IRS an average of $530, reducing their refunds by an average of 17 percent.

Read the rest here

Indiana Teacher Union Membership Up

Indiana teacher unions have gained some members since their big drop off in 2011. EAGnews.org first reported numbers in 2012:

According to internal sources at the Indiana State Teachers Association, membership has dropped by more than 20 percent – from 50,032 in 2010-11 to 39,922 in 2011-12.


The ISTA (Indiana State Teachers Association) now boasts membership at 45,000 which means membership has gone up.

Some districts are still losing union membership. Tippecanoe School District, gave a glimpse in how much the drop off is. Reporting via jconline.com:

The Lafayette Education Association saw a 17 percent drop in the past four school years; membership decreased from 400 members, or 67 percent of Lafayette School Corp. teachers, in September 2011 to 332 members, or 56 percent of teachers, in September 2014.

The Tippecanoe Education Association saw a 26 percent drop during that same time period — dropping from 420 members, or 67 percent of Tippecanoe School Corp. teachers, to 310 members, or 46 percent.

Nationally union membership has dropped double digits the last 30 years.

In 2014, about 49 percent of teachers — or about 2.5 million — were union members. That’s down from 53 percent just a decade ago, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 1984, teachers union coverage was at 64 percent.

Employment Opportunity: Checking Poop

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Via Washington Times –

The federal government is looking for doctors to help monitor suspected smugglers’ bowel movements at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, in a solicitation that sounds like it could be something out of the Discovery Channel’s “Dirty Jobs” program.

Doctors must be available round-the-clock in case CBP officers suspect they have a “swallower,” which is what internal drug smugglers are known as. The doctors are charged with X-raying or otherwise examining suspects’ body cavities, and if drugs are found, the work order says “the detainee may be held for a monitored bowel movement (MBM) to wait the passage of the contraband material.”

“CBP regularly intercepts individuals who ingest wrapped packets of illicit drugs such as cocaine, heroin, amphetamines, ecstasy, marijuana or hashish to transport them,” the agency said. “CBP officers apply their keen knowledge, expertise and intelligence to detect and intercept suspected body cavity concealers at our nation’s ports of entry.”

CBP identified 176 “body cavity concealment incidents” in 2014, which was down from 187 the previous year.


You can read the rest here.

Who Qualifies for the Army?

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Former Florida Congressman Lt. Colonel Allen West recently posted a scathing piece denouncing stereotypes military recruits face in segments of American society. Within the piece he outlined some interesting stastitics the Army faces in recruiting future soldiers.

Here is the breakdown:

The recruiting pool for the U.S. Army is individuals between 17 and 24 years old. 71 percent would not qualify to join the Army.

What are the major disqualifiers? First, some 31 percent cannot join because of multiple felonies and other moral issues such as drug use or other law violations. The other major category that disqualifies 17 to 24-year-olds is lack of fitness/obesity and other medical issues.

Only two percent can’t qualify for the Army now due to aptitude/academic issues, so the major disqualifying points have to do with moral and physical standards.


Here are the numbers broken down of the qualified applicants:

Now understand, of the 29 percent who could qualify, here is the breakdown that LTC Patton and his staff shared with me. Only 15 percent of individuals age 17 to 24 have any interest in joining the military.