Capitol Comments

CSG Director of Fiscal and Economic Development Policy Jennifer Burnett outlines the top five issues for 2016, including strategic decisions following modest revenue growth, workforce development, public pensions, federal instability, and health care costs. 

Workforce Development, Wages and Innovation: States are looking for innovative strategies to overhaul economic development programs and tie those strategies to workforce development goals, including worker re-training programs. That will mean identifying ways for the public, private and academic sectors to work together more efficiently to create and sustain high-paying jobs and foster an environment conducive to entrepreneurial investment. In addition, a renewed focus and commitment by the federal government on workforce development through programs like the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, or WIOA, will help drive and provide resources for state initiatives in 2016. 

Modest Revenue Growth, Strategic Decisions: For states in the coming year, no news is good news when it comes to finances. For the last few years, states on the whole have seen a slow and steady increase in revenues. In the coming year, state leaders will have a little bit more breathing room when making fiscal decisions. States collected $912 billion in total tax revenues in fiscal year 2015—an increase of 5.6 percent over 2014 levels. Growth over this time was widespread—47 states reported growth—while three states, Alaska, Illinois and North Dakota, reported declines. For states reliant on natural resources, that cautious revenue growth could be derailed by volatility in the oil market. For other states, that breathing room comes with a complex set of choices: Do they shore up their savings or invest in infrastructure? In addition to decisions on saving for a rainy day and infrastructure investment, state leaders may begin taking a look at tax reform, but it is unlikely there will be huge shifts anytime soon.

In October, the Senate passed the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2015, or CISA, 74-21. The bill is essentially an information-sharing bill, designed to allow companies that are hit by a hacker to share information—called “cyber threat indicators”—with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, or DHS. DHS can then put out an alert, share suspicious code and warn other firms about the threat.

The House passed its own version of the bill—Protecting Cyber Networks Act—back in April.

According to the 2014 National Youth Tobacco Survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Tobacco Products, current e-cigarette use (defined as use on at least 1 day in the past 30 days) among high school students jumped from 4.5 percent (660,000) in 2013 to 13.4 percent (2 million) in 2014. Among middle schoolers, use tripled from 2013-201: from 1.1 percent in 2013 to 3.9 percent in 2014. Currently, at least 48 states ban the sale of e-cigarettes or alternative tobacco products to minors.

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