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AltAusterity Digest #85 February 7-13, 2019

This week in Austerity News:

Feb 15, 2019

One of the primary bargaining points in the Denver teacher’s strike is the roll-back of a pay-for-performance system. Performance pay has been fiercely opposed by the teacher unions who say that the measures are unreliable and beyond the control of teachers with test scores and boosting test scores being metrics for how performance is measured. The bonus structure of the system is also often used to bring down base pay, with the implicit argument being that “less effective” teachers should be paid less.  The Denver Public Schools Superintended Susana Cordova has said that the district is working to simplify the performance pay system, rather than scrapping it altogether. The Denver strike follows teachers strikes in West Virginia and Los Angeles and comes as teachers in Oakland California seem to be moving toward a strike.

A spending shortfall on transportation infrastructure has left Portuguese commuters with ongoing problems. Delays and overcrowding are two of the most prominent problems as insufficient transport networks have combined with a growing tourism industry. The governing Socialist party has pledged to invest 3.4 billion euros by 2030 to overhaul the Portuguese urban transport system, though many citizens and commentators worry that the changes will come too late. Public investment in transportation infrastructure will include 10 new ferries (with the first coming in 2021), a 127 million euro-investment in the Lisbon metro system (ready by 2025), and the addition of 365 buses and 30 trams by 2022.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has found that UK Chancellor Philip Hammond must add an additional £5bn in this year’s Whitehall spending review to reverse planned cuts and meet his claim of ending austerity. Despite pledging to boost spending for the NHS, defence and international aid, the IFS has pointed out that the local councils and some government departments still face significant shortfalls. Since 2010, the Ministry of Justice, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and local governments have faced cuts of up to 40%. The shadow chancellor has said that government claims that UK austerity is over are falling short.

Ontario’s deficit figure has been revised again as Finance Minister Vic Fedeli claims higher tax revenues are expected to shrink the annual shortfall to $13.5 billion. The figure has been revised twice since the Conservatives took office with the first figure being $15 billion and the November figure placing the deficit at $14.5 billion. The Conservatives have promised to lower the deficit by $6 billion a year through spending cuts and “finding efficiencies.” Despite the government’s claims, the independent Financial Accountability Office has put Ontario’s deficit at $12.3 billion in December. The Conservatives have been accused on intentionally inflating the deficit for the purposes of pursuing deeper spending cuts.

That's it for this week's Digest! Check back next Friday morning for another edition, or subscribe to our newsletter for a weekly roundup. We'll also Tweet each time we add new content, so you can keep up with our work @AltAusterity and join the #altausterity conversation!