News

macon.com MIDDAY UPDATE: Many states appear to be in recession as deficits grow; Bush says rebates will start going out Monday; FDA takes closer look at Lasik complaints

The finances of many states have deteriorated so badly that they appear to be in a recession, regardless of whether that's true for the nation as a whole, a survey of all 50 state fiscal directors concludes.

The situation looks even worse for the fiscal year that begins July 1 in most states.

"Whether or not the national economy is in recession - a subject of ongoing debate - is almost beside the point for some states," said the report to be released Friday by the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The weakening economy is hitting tax revenue in a number of ways: People's discretionary income is being gobbled up by higher food and fuel costs, while the tanking housing market means people are spending less on furniture and appliances associated with buying a house.

The situation is grim in Delaware, with a $69 million gap this year, and bleak in California, with a projected $16 billion budget shortfall over the next two years, the report said. Florida does not expect a rapid turnaround in revenue because of the prolonged real estate slump there.

By mid-April, 16 states and Puerto Rico were reporting shortfalls in their current budgets as the revenue those budgets were built on - typically, taxes - fell short of estimates. That's double the number of states reporting a deficit six months ago.

The NCSL said the news is even worse for the upcoming fiscal year, with 23 states and Puerto Rico already reporting budget shortfalls totaling $26 billion. More than two-thirds of states said they are concerned about next year's budgets.

The results are consistent with a drumbeat of bad economic news for states that several budget groups have produced in the past few months.Ð Associated Press

Bush says rebates will start going out Monday

President Bush said tax rebates will start going out Monday, earlier than previously announced, and should help Americans cope with rising gasoline and food prices, as well as aid a slumping economy.

"Starting Monday, the effects of the stimulus will begin to reach millions of households across our country," Bush said Friday in remarks on the South Lawn of the White House.

The Internal Revenue Service had been saying direct deposits wouldn't start until next Friday. Bush said paper checks would begin going out on May 9, a week earlier than previously announced.

"The money is going to help Americans offset the high prices we're seeing at the gas pump, the grocery store, and also give our economy a boost to help us pull out of this economic slowdown," Bush said.

Bush's emphasis on fuel and food prices differed from other comments he's made since signing the economic stimulus legislation, intended to aid the economy by boosting overall consumer spending - which accounts for roughly two-thirds of the nation's economic activity.

Bush suggested the rebates could trigger a spending spree. "When the money reaches the American people, we expect they will use it to boost consumer spending," he said last month.Ð Associated Press

FDA takes closer look at Lasik complaints

Patients harmed by Lasik eye surgery alternated between fury and despair Friday as they told federal health officials of suffering years of eye pain, blurred or double vision - even of people driven to suicide.

"Too many Americans have been harmed by this procedure and it's about time this message was heard," said David Shell of Washington, D.C., who had Lasik in 1998 and says he has "not experienced a moment of crisp, good quality vision since."

A decade after Lasik hit the market, the FDA is taking a new look at whether warnings about its risks are appropriate - and pairing with eye surgeons for major study to better understand who has bad outcomes and why.

Most Lasik recipients do walk away with crisper vision, and the American Society for Cataract and Refractive Surgery reviewed studies showing about 95 percent of patients say they're satisfied with their outcome.

But not everyone's a good candidate, and an unlucky fraction do suffer life-changing side effects: poor vision even with glasses, painful dry eyes, glare or inability to see or drive at night.

How big are the risks? The FDA agrees that about 5 percent of patients are dissatisfied with Lasik. How many struggle daily with side effects? How many are less harmed but unhappy that they couldn't completely ditch their glasses? The range of effects on patients' quality of life is a big unknown - and the reason the FDA help a public hearing Friday as part of its new move.Ð Associated Press

WHAT'S COMING UP ON MACON.COM

- Get the latest political scoop in our weekly Political Notebook.

- We'll update you on the fight over the Bibb-Monroe border -- and associated surveying costs -- as the conflict drags on.

VISIT US AGAIN SOON

We invite you to check out our Web site again next week for the Midday Update. Monday through Friday, Online Editor Beth MacFadyen will bring you timely information about what Telegraph staffers are working on, plus news we think you need to know immediately. Send feedback to bmacfadyen@macon.com

  Comments