A recap of this week’s top-five news items and resources from the intersection of business and government.
1. U.S. starts fiscal year with record $31 trillion in debt
On Tuesday, the U.S. Treasury reported the nation’s gross national debt has surpassed $31 trillion, which is getting very close to the $31.4 trillion ceiling cap Congress placed on the U.S. government’s ability to borrow. Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, said in an email on Tuesday, “This is a new record no one should be proud of.”
The latest debt numbers, coupled with high inflation and rising interest rates, have increased many concerns about the future of our economy. Sung Won Sohn, an economics professor at Loyola Marymount University, said “it took this nation 200 years to pile up its first trillion dollars in national debt, and since the pandemic, we have been adding at the rate of 1 trillion nearly every quarter.”
2. Work permits for U.S. student visa holders upheld by appeals court
On Tuesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in a 2-1 decision upheld the federal government’s decades-old practice of allowing student visa holders to remain in the U.S. and work after graduation. The ruling rejected the claim made by the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers, an advocacy group representing American tech workers, that the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program displaces American tech workers. The court said that allowing international students to work in their field of study for up to three years was within the Department of Homeland Security’s authority to set the conditions of immigrants’ stay in the country. Major business groups including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers intervened to defend the OPT program, claiming it was essential to address the current qualified worker shortage many businesses are facing.
3. Maryland state employees to see 4.5% wage increase resulting from larger-than-expected budget surplus
Beginning Nov. 1, Maryland state employees will receive a 4.5% wage increase as a result of a second year of a projected multibillion-dollar revenue surplus in 2023. Maryland’s Board of Revenue Estimates met Thursday afternoon, voting to boost Maryland’s fiscal year 2023 revenue projections by $1.2 billion, bringing the total to $23.7 billion. In 2022, the state ended with a $2 billion revenue surplus which Governor Hogan pledged some of to a state employee wage increase. The recent cost-of-living increase fulfills Hogan’s promise.
“This cost of living adjustment will help state employees and their families with the challenges they face from historic inflation, and — amid the post-pandemic labor shortage — today’s actions advance our enhanced efforts to recruit and retain a talented workforce,” Hogan said in a statement Thursday.
4. As mail-in ballots arrive this week for Maryland voters, here’s what you need to know for the Nov. 8 election
Election Day on November 8 is less than a month away, and Marylanders are getting ready to vote in several critical races, including the seats for governor, attorney general and comptroller. As was the case for the July primary, Maryland is offering a hybrid election format and those who requested mail-in ballots will start receiving them this week. There is still time request a ballot, register to vote and make a voting day plan.
Here’s everything you need to know about casting your ballot.
5. Maryland appeals court hears arguments in toll lanes bid protest
On Monday, a Maryland appeals court questioned the timeliness of a bid protest on a state contract to develop toll lanes for Interstate 270 and the Capital Beltway. The protest, filed by Spanish firm Cintra, alleges the Maryland Department of Transportation violated its own procurement rules by selecting another team that lacked a lead construction contractor at the time. They also argued that the winning proposal, by Australian toll road operator Transurban, was based on unrealistically low construction costs that could lead to delays and unforeseeable costs.
Lawyers for MDOT and Transurban argued the contract was awarded properly and that Cintra filed its objections too late under the project’s procurement rules. The appellate court asked lawyers on both sides to submit briefs over the next seven weeks on whether the timeliness of the bid protest’s filing remains relevant.
Businesses Leading with Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
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