State News Roundup
Ohio recently saw a surge of tourism dollars spent during 2011. Up 6.5 percent from the previous year, the state saw $40.3 billion spent by tourists. Interestingly though, the state believes most of the dollars comes from those who are not traveling as far or as long due to recent economic conditions. “I think Columbus and COSI have benefitted from people staying closer to home,” said Jaclyn Reynolds,spokeswoman for COSI Columbus. While more gains are expected in 2012, the state’s tourism board does not make predictions. Meanwhile south of Columbus in Cincinnati, a proposed sales tax to restore and upgrade some of the city’s historic landmarks and facilities has been postponed until 2014. Originallymeant for next year, the proposed sales tax was pushed back because of the need for a levy this year and the strain it could place upon county residents during tough economic times. “In this time, with the economy the way it is, no one takes anything for granted,” commented Cincinnati Zoo Director Thane Maynard. Early stages of planning placed the tax at a .25 percentage point increase of Hamilton County’s 6.5 percent sales tax, bringing in about $30 million in revenue annually.
Across the country in Montana, oil and gas companies attended a May 8th auction for leases of federal lands totaling $3.9 million in bonus bids. All but two of the 151 parcels of land auctioned were located in Montana, leaving two parcels in North and South Dakota. The highest per acre bid was $2,800 dollars and came on a parcel in Richland County Montana. While gas and oil companies begin the process of exploration of their new lands, solar panel installation firms in New Jersey are using tax credits and loopholes to their benefit.
Installation firms like, SunRun, SolarCity, and Sungevity are using the credits and loopholes to offer free, or close to free, installation to their customers. With the initial cost of installation of solar panels to be in the tens of thousands of dollars for a home, many consumers had stayed clear of the panels, but because of an influx of cheap panels from China, many installers are cutting long-term deals with consumers to get the panels installed. Companies will install the panels and retain their ownership, while the consumer pays for the electricity provided by the panels to the company. Unfortunately this can drastically complicate selling of homes or cancellation of the long-term contract, sometimes as long as 20 years. On the other side of the industry, solar manufacturers here in the US, some of which received funds from the stimulus, have a pending suit against Chinese manufacturers claiming they are subsidized by the Chinese government and are attempting to kill competition here in the US. The ruling on the case could drastically change this market for consumers and companies providing installation of the cheap panels.