Economics and Finance

In recent years, state increasingly have looked at state-sanctioned and operated gambling as a source of revenue, primarily through four main categories: lotteries, casinos, racinos and pari-mutuel wagering. Here is a look at state gambling revenues in 2014 based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government.

According to the Organization for International Investment (OFII), foreign direct investment in the United States totaled $2.9 trillion through 2014 on a historical-cost basis (cumulative investment). In 2008, investment reached a 10-year peak at $310 billion. In 2009, the global economic recession led to significant reductions in U.S. investment, falling by more than half the previous year’s levels. In 2014, foreign companies invested $112 billion in the U.S. – the weakest year in a decade. However, based on preliminary data for the first three quarters of 2015, OFII suggests that foreign direct investment in the U.S. may make a comeback, possibly breaking records by exceeding $300 billion. 

International trade directors from more than 35 states participated in meetings and discussions with federal officials, foreign dignitaries and other partners at the State International Development Organizations’, or SIDO’s, Washington Forum in Washington, D.C., the first week of April. SIDO members met with federal officials to discuss implementation of two recent legislative actions, namely the passage of the Small Business Trade Enhancement Act of 2015, or the State Trade Coordination Act, and the reauthorization of the State Trade and Export Promotions, or STEP, program.

For state budgets, every dollar counts. But this is perhaps even more so the case at a time when state economies are still recovering from the Great Recession. That’s why New Mexico State Auditor Tim Keller decided to take a closer look at state accounts when he was elected in 2014. In February, the New Mexico Office of the State Auditor released the second annual Fund Balance Report, which focuses on unspent funds in state government accounts that don’t automatically revert to the state’s general fund. In New Mexico, Keller took a look at unspent funds across all state agencies that didn’t automatically revert back to the general fund. And the results, he said, were somewhat surprising. “The dollars were much higher than anyone expected.”

The U.S. Economic Development Administration will hold a series of informational webinars for prospective applicants to the agency’s $15 million Regional Innovation Strategies Program competition.

Ballots that address the minimum wage have been certified for 2016 to appear in three states with certification pending in another eight states. All of the initiatives seek to raise the minimum wage, except one - in South Dakota, the Decreased Youth Minimum Wage Referendum is a veto referendum that would overturn Senate Bill 177, which decreased the minimum wage for workers under age 18 from $8.50 to $7.50 and provide that the youth minimum wage is not pegged to inflation.

Prior to 1996, the minimum wage was rarely an issue addressed on state ballots. Since 1996 however, the minimum wage has increasingly appeared on state ballots, and could appear on the ballot in a record 11 states in 2016. The first time the minimum wage appeared on a state ballot was in 1912 in Ohio.

CSG Midwest
Two more Midwestern states have recently adopted “ban the box” laws, which are designed to improve the job prospects of individuals with criminal records. These laws require public employers to remove questions about an individual’s criminal history on job applications and during the initial screening process. Background check inquiries are delayed until later in the hiring process.

States may reap some revenue rewards following the rollout of new rules by the U.S. Treasury Department related to corporate income taxes. On April 4, 2016, the U.S. Treasury Department announced the issuance of new regulations that are intended to make it more difficult for companies to pursue corporate inversions—the practice used by companies to reincorporate overseas in order to reduce their tax burden on income earned abroad—and to reduce subsequent profits for tax purposes through a tactic called earnings stripping. Earnings stripping is a technique employed by companies after a corporate inversion to minimize U.S. tax obligations by transferring debt to a foreign parent company and declaring the interest on the debt as a deduction.

Pension administrators and policy experts presented success stories, strategies for managing public pensions and tools for collecting data on public pensions across the country at a March 29 CSG eCademy webcast, “The Facts on Public Pensions.” The webcast, which was presented in partnership with the Center for State and Local Government Excellence, introduced the Public Plans Data website, a free tool to compare plans across states and help inform debates about retirement security issues.

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