Friday Five | September 16, 2022

A recap of this week’s top-five news items and resources from the intersection of business and government.


1. Biden says a tentative railway labor deal has been reached, averting a strike

The White House announced yesterday that a tentative agreement had been reached between rail companies and the unions representing conductors and engineers, averting a strike that could have halted freight and passenger trains across the country.

“This agreement is validation – validation of what I’ve always believed. Unions and management can work together, can work together for the benefit of everyone,” said President Biden, calling the deal a win for America and for rail workers who worked tirelessly through the pandemic to deliver goods.

Union members still have to vote to ratify the agreement before it is finalized, but a vote is not expected for at least a couple of weeks. Amtrak announced they are working quickly to restore canceled trains and reaching out to impacted customers to accommodate on first available departures. The deal also contains changes that will increase pay and improve the quality of life for workers which will help attract and retain a qualified workforce.

Read the full story here.


2. Maryland will see school construction, state employee raises with $2 billion surplus

On Wednesday, Maryland released its 2022 fiscal year report showing a $2 billion revenue surplus due to increased revenue from the state’s income taxes and the ongoing impact of federal stimulus aid. Of that total, $370 million will be transferred to a Fiscal Responsibility Fund for public schools, community colleges and higher education construction. It also includes $60 million for pay increases for some state employees and $500 million for the state’s Rainy Day Fund.

“Today’s report underscores the fact that Maryland’s economic bones — despite the volatility currently experienced in our global economy — remains strong,” said State Comptroller Peter Franchot. “We continue to feel the ripple effects from the COVID-related fiscal and monetary policies, but it’s important to note that these ripples will grow smaller and less significant in the years ahead.”

Read the full story here.


3. U.S. inflation slows for 2nd month but remains stubbornly high 

Despite U.S. inflation slowing down for a second straight month on a sharp fall in gas prices, most other items have gotten more expensive in August, a sign that inflation remains a heavy burden for Americans. Consumer prices surged 8.3% in August compared with a year earlier, down from an 8.5% jump in July and a four-decade high of 9.1% in June. In the 12 months ending in August, core prices, which typically provide a more accurate read on where costs are headed than inflation, rose by 6.3% compared to 5.9% in July. Next week, economic experts predict the central bank will announce a third straight three-quarter-point hike, ranging from 3% to 3.25%, in its continued fight to slow down growth and reduce inflation.

Read the full story here.


4. Baltimore area transit advocates get first look at potential north-south alignments 

Last Friday, the Maryland Transit Administration unveiled a list of seven potential north-south alignment projects in the Baltimore region to improve bus and rail service throughout the state. The state’s top transit official said the public’s feedback helped craft alternatives that have the potential to move people between Towson and Baltimore City equitably.

“MTA is excited to be working with our local partners to improve critical transit connections from Towson to Downtown Baltimore and improve access to jobs, education and recreation,” Administrator Holly Arnold said in a statement.

The proposed preliminary north-south alignments were based on public input, an analysis of travel patterns, and existing transit ridership and land use. They include a mix of heavy rail, light rail, bus rapid transit and overlap with the most utilized routes in the local bus network.

Read the full story here.


5. The Inflation Reduction Act beefed up the IRS. Here’s what it means for small businesses 

The Inflation Reduction Act, passed into law last month, set aside $79 billion to further strengthen the IRS, leading to concerns about the impact of increased audits for small business owners. But experts say many small businesses will likely be unaffected, and the likelihood of being audited will depend on their size and definition of small business. The IRS has stated that it would not increase audit activity on individuals and small businesses making less than $400,000 yearly. In an August 4, 2022, letter to Congress, IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig said the Inflation Reduction Act will let the agency get back to challenging areas, including large corporations and global high-net-worth taxpayers.

“These resources are absolutely not about increasing audit scrutiny on small businesses or middle-income Americans,” Rettig said in the letter. “Enhanced IT systems and taxpayer services will actually mean that honest taxpayers will be better able to comply with the tax laws, resulting in a lower likelihood of being audited and a reduced burden on them.”

Read the full story here.


NEXT WEEK: 2023 benefit trends for MD employers to stay competitive in the job market

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