State Tax Hike Targets Top Earners; A Smarter Work Week
BY Nitasha Tiku
(Not quite) total recall. Companies have to react swiftly and surely to the news that its products are faulty or flawed. But Treehugger condemns Steve Wasik, president of the SIGG water bottle company, as too milquetoast in his attempts to repair customer trust after admitting that the company's bottles contain BPA. (BPA, or Bisphenol A has been known to be harmful to humans for many years, but the limits on the amount consumer products can safely contain has only recently come under scrutiny.) Treehugger compares Wasik's actions to the 1982 Tylenol crisis where someone put cyanide in Extra Strength Tylenol in Chicago. Despite the fact that the problem was contained to Chicago, Johnson and Johnson execs replaced every pill on the continent. It took a year, but their sales recovered. Wasik has offered to replace the tainted bottles, but not as part of an official recall, so customers must pay to ship the bottles back. Check out our archives to learn more about avoiding a recall when cutting corners through outsourcing and the potential opportunity for companies whose competition is forced to recall their products.
States look to generate revenue by taxing top earners. Yesterday, after two months with a budget, Connecticut state senators sent Gov. Rell a plan that boosts the state's revenue by spiking income taxes on the state's wealthiest residents from 5 to 6.5 percent for individuals who earn more than $500,000 and joint filers who earn more than a million. That makes Connecticut the 8th state this year, along with Delaware, Hawaii, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, and Wisconsin, to do so, according to Stateline. Democrats ushered in the increases under the argument that wealthier residents can afford to pay a higher share of their income in taxes during a recession when basic state services for the poor have been crippled. But Republicans have sparked a partisan debate by crying "class warfare" and predicting top earners will flee to friendlier states. Last year Maryland became the first state to tax millionaires to seek new revenue. Critics note that the state's number of residents with $1 million in taxable income has dropped.
One billion reasons to go green. Sun Microsystems co-founder and current venture capitalist Vinod Khosla, has launched a $1.1 billion fund meant to spur on the development of clean technologies. The Los Angeles Times reports that Khosla's $1.1 billion fund is split into two parts: $800 million will be used to invest in early- to mid-stage clean energy and information technology companies. The remaining $275 million will finance what Khosla calls "science experiments," high-risk projects that may only exist in university laboratories at this point. The interesting thing is that Khosla is hoping to reach out beyond just traditional wind farm technologies and solar-cell manufacturers. As he puts it, "We're doing bioplastics, lighting, engines, water and air conditioning--almost anything that can be made renewable, sustainable, more efficient and cheaper."
Gmail goes down, startups freak out. Over the past few years, small companies and start-ups have increasingly opted to abandon Microsoft and its licensing fees in favor of free services from Google. But what happens when Google stumbles? The answer, as we learned yesterday when Google's Gmail service went down for 100 minutes, is that an entire sector of the economy comes to a screeching halt. A writer for TechCrunch, which uses the service groused, "I use Apps For Domain for everything - my contacts, my email, my todo list, my chat, my documents and more recently, my phone. As soon as it went down, I noticed in less than a second. I am now completely stuck." The panic was such that Twitter was briefly overrun with angry Gmail users looking to vent.
Utah's smarter work week deemed a success. The country was still contending with soaring oil and energy prices when Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. decided to take a novel approach. In August 2008, he had 17,000 state employees start working 10 hour-days, four days a week in order to reduce both energy costs by closing state office buildings and greenhouse emissions by cutting down on the number of commuters on the road each week. In its first year, state government's energy was reduced by 13 percent, with employees saving $6 million in gasoline costs. So far, absenteeism and overtime are down, as are customer complaints, reports Wharton business school. Waiting times at Utah DMV have also decreased under the extended Mon-Thurs hours. 82 percent of workers want to keep the new schedule, adds Time. (Hat tip, peHUB)
Innovative Netflix competition nears end. Netflix is set to announce a winner of the 3 year competition to see who could best improve the company's DVD recommendation service, Wired reports. The winning team will get $1 million and the glory of having its recommendation algorithm incorporated into Netflix's website. "Clearly, Netflix has stumbled onto a winning formula here," Wired says, noting that the company is already planning a second contest. (Via WebNewswer)
Dimdim comes out swinging against Google Wave.TechCrunch reports that web conferencing software company Dimdim launched Dimdim Webinar today, which allows small businesses and individual users to host software-free, browser-based web seminars and conferences with up to 1,000 viewers. The new offering benefits from Dimdim's partnership with Eventbrite, an online ticketing and event management service that will allow webinar hosts to profit from their broadcasts. Dimdim Webinar could also earn small businesses some additional revenue by allowing them to view video hits and enroll in a program that pays up to $150 for each webinar signup. With a monthly price tag of $75 for the full service -- free for up to 300 TechCrunch readers -- how will it stand up to the highly anticipated Google Wave, set for a beta release this month?
Reporter NITASHA TIKU covers technology, finance, green business, and social entrepreneurship for Inc. magazine and contributes to the staff’s daily links blog. Her work has appeared in New York magazine, The Villager, Chelsea Now, and on nymag.com. She lives in Brooklyn, New York. @nitashatiku