Capitol Comments

In today’s data-driven environment, nearly every program and initiative is analyzed to determine its effectiveness and overall return on investment. In September, the State International Development Organizations, or SIDO, an affiliate of The Council of State Governments, issued a report on performance metrics for international trade programs.

“This best practice report will help federal and state policymakers better understand the role of state international trade programs and how to measure them,” David Mathe, export director for the state of Delaware and SIDO president, wrote in the report’s foreword.

On Sept. 19, the U.S. Small Business Administration, or SBA, awarded $18 million in funds to 47 states through the State Trade Expansion Program, or STEP, to help support and increase exporting from small businesses. The STEP grant program has been a vital resource to help states increase the number of companies that export, and thus grow their economies.

Exports from the United States account for nearly 13 percent of the gross domestic product and support millions of direct and in-direct jobs. Moreover, firms that export are more diversified and pay 15-20 percent higher wages on average than their nonexporting competitors.

On June 21, 2018 the White House unveiled a proposal to reform and reorganize various federal agencies. The Delivering Government Solutions in the 21st Century report proposed merging the U.S. Departments of Labor and Education into one new agency, the U.S. Department of Education and Workforce, or the DEW.

The proposal is result of the directive from Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, to identify and streamline duplicative federal offices and programs.

“They’re [U.S. departments of Labor and Education] doing the same thing, Mulvaney stated during the announcement. “They’re trying to get people ready for the workforce—sometimes it’s education, sometimes it’s vocational training—but all doing the same thing, so why not put them in the same place?”

Congress finished 2015 on an unusually productive streak – at least compared to recent years – by passing a variety of legislation important to state governments, including funding the highway trust fund, reforming the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (now called the Every Student Succeeds Act), reauthorizing the highly debated Export-Import Bank, extending a variety of tax incentive provisions, and funding the federal government through September 2016.  Going into a presidential election year, many experts do not expect Congress to act on major policy initiatives before November, and are closely watching what President Obama will do in his final year in office. 

As the world becomes more interconnected, state leaders continue to play a larger role in international affairs – both by identifying opportunities to grow their economy through international trade and monitoring the geopolitics to ensure the health and safety of their citizens. In Washington, DC, states will be watching Congress to see if they act on President Obama’s top priority on his trade agenda – the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, or the TPP. The TPP agreement between 11 nations would be one of the largest agreements on history, covering over 800 million consumers and 40 percent of the world’s gross domestic product. It is important that state leaders review and understand the proposed agreement and voice their thoughts with Congress and federal agencies.

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