Capitol Comments

We have a new Capitol Facts & Figures policy brief out today that attempts to survey this year’s State Transportation Finance Legislation and Trends. As mentioned in the brief, Georgia was one state that managed to make a name for itself this year in transportation finance. It did so with a plan that at first glance seemed to both kick the can down the road and pass the buck. But the plan could be the path many cash-strapped and tax increase-averse states choose to follow in the years ahead. And, although their plan isn’t designed to come to fruition until after the 2012 election, Georgia may be able to learn some things from transportation-related ballot measures other states will consider this November.

Voters in at least nine states will have the opportunity when they go to the polls November 2 to decide the outcome of education-related referenda - most of which would either increase or reduce public school funding. The ballot measures will provide an interesting display of voter priorities – the desire by some for tax relief versus a call by others for more funding for education.

On March 3, 2010, Virginia Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli filed a lawsuit against U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius on behalf of his state alleging that federal health care reform—the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act—was unconstitutional. The lawsuit brought the debate about the roles state and federal governments should play in national health care reform front and center.

The US Department of Energy (DOE) recently announced plans to accelerate the development of offshore wind power in the United States.  The US, particularly along the East Coast, has vast reserves of offshore wind.  According to Willett Kempton of the Center for Carbon-Free Power Integration at the University of Delaware, offshore wind has an estimated 18 times the resource of offshore oil.[i]  DOE intends to realize 54 gigawatts (GW) of wind by 2030 within a cost range of 7-9 cents per kilowatt-hour.[ii]

CGS, through the National Center for Interstate Compacts, recently released a new publication detailing some of the ways Interstate Compacts are being used to address multi-state policy challenges.  The publication, entitled The Evolving Use of Interstate Compacts, highlights some of the recent trends in compacts and how modern compacts are helping to reshape interstate cooperation.  To read the piece please click here.

President Obama stepped up the urgency in his call for increased infrastructure spending during remarks Monday in the White House Rose Garden. Although the President primarily echoed the plan he originally outlined on Labor Day calling for the rebuilding of 150,000 miles of roads, 4,000 miles of rail lines, and 150 miles of airport runways, he came armed with plenty of new evidence that infrastructure improvements would be an effective tool in aiding the nation’s economic recovery and ensuring a brighter future.

On November 2nd, Californians will vote “yes” or “no” on Proposition 23.  Prop 23 seeks to suspend AB 32, the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 through, among other things, increased use of renewable energy and pollution controls until state unemployment (currently at 12.4%) is sustained at 5.5% for 4 consecutive quarters.  That has only happened 3 times in the last 34 years.

The U.S. transportation system lacks a coherent vision, is chronically short of resources, is costing the country dearly in lost time, money and safety and is compromising our productivity and ability to compete internationally. Those are some of the conclusions in a new report entitled “Well Within Reach” issued on behalf of a bipartisan panel of transportation experts who met for three days last year at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center of Public Affairs. While none of that is likely to be news to many, the report does offer a series of recommendations for a new transportation agenda that are worthy of consideration.

A new report looking at the experiences of five states (CT, MI, MA, NC, WA) as they move through the early period of implementation of federal health reform legislation finds significant hurdles due to political uncertainties and staffing challenges. Anticipating that states will require information and assistance to meet the implementation requirements and timelines of the Affordable Care Act, CSG plans a full day of sessions on health reform during the 2010 Annual Conference in Providence, RI, on December 3-6.

“Armageddon on Colorado ballots” proclaimed the colorful headline of a Denver Post editorial this week. The doomsday concern is in reference to three ballot measures Colorado voters will consider this November that may be reflective of the anti-tax, anti-spending, anti-borrowing, anti-big government sentiments among the electorate this fall but that could go a long way in determining whether the state has any money in the future to do important things like build and maintain roads.

Pages