Capitol Comments

In recent weeks, a new word has emerged in the public discourse surrounding state’s fiscal difficulties: bankruptcy. States are facing colossal fiscal pressures, including mounting public pension obligations which now represent a trillion dollar unfunded gap, according to the Pew Center on the States.  

When President Obama's 2012 budget is unveiled next week, it will include a surprise gift to states indebted to the federal government for unemployment insurance trust fund loans. Administration officials are reporting that the president's proposal will include a plan to give states a two year respite from automatic tax increases and interest payments on unemployment insurance loans. 

As voters determined who would be governing their states and the nation on Tuesday, they also made decisions on a myriad of ballot initiatives, referendums and legislative measures.  In total, there were 160 ballot proposals in 37 states, many of which were related to fiscal and economic issues.  According to the Initiative and Referendum Institute, taxes – as in past years – were the number one issue on state ballots in 2010.  Measures concerning property taxes found their way on to a number of state ballots this year, along with income taxes, sales taxes, fiscal limits, fees and miscellaneous taxes, rainy day funds, and changes to legislative procedures and voting requirements related to budget issues. 

The Missouri public defender system announced yesterday that its Springfield office would not accept new cases until August because attorneys have exceeded their maximum caseloads.

According to a new report by the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government, state government employment continued its slow slide in June.  From April 2009 to June 2010, state government employment decreased in 28 states, while private employment decreased in 44 states over the same time period. 

In those states with declines, rates varied significantly from a drop of 6.9 percent in Idaho to 0.2 percent in Tennessee, South Dakota and Mississippi.  In 20 states, state government employment increased, ranging from an increase of 0.2 percent in Utah to 3.5 percent in Massachusetts.  Two states – Rhode Island and Wyoming – had no change in employment.

During this same period, private employment decreased in all but six states with decreases ranging from a high of 3.2 percent in Nevada to Hawaii with a decrease of 0.1 percent. The six states with increases in private employment were Alaska (3%), Utah (0.4%), New Hampshire (0.5%), Kentucky (0.6%), Indiana (0.7%) and North Dakota (1.2%). 

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