Labor and Employment

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Concerned about a steady decline in the proportion of state workers who are disabled, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton is ordering agency heads to do more. His executive order also includes a workforce goal — that by 2018, 7 percent of the people employed by Minnesota’s state agencies be individuals with disabilities.

Yesterday, California Governor Jerry Brown signed the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014 (AB 1522) into law which will require employers in the state to provide at least three days of paid sick leave annually for part and full-time workers beginning July 2015. This makes California the second state to pass such a law - Connecticut was the first state to do so in 2011. According to a press release issued by the governor’s office, the new law will provide “paid sick days to the millions of Californians - roughly 40% of the state's workforce - who do not currently earn this benefit”.

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The future of a controversial Indiana “right to work” law (dubbed “right to work for less” by opponents) is now in the hands of the state’s Supreme Court. According to The Indianapolis Star, oral arguments were set to begin in early September. The 2012 law has been ruled unconstitutional by two lower-court state judges. In contrast, it survived a legal challenge in federal court.

ANCHORAGE, ALASKA—While states across the country have made changes to their public employee retirement plans, some of them have ended up in court for one key reason. “There’s a theme that comes where reform efforts have worked and where they don’t and a lot of them end up getting them challenged in court,” Robert D. Klausner, a partner with a law firm that handles retirement system cases, said during the CSG policy academy, “Accounting for the State of Public Pensions,” Saturday, Aug. 9. “The places where it doesn’t get challenged in court are places where employees have been engaged early in the process.”

ANCHORAGE, ALASKA—While public pension plans still face problems, the situation isn’t as bleak as the headlines report, according to Dana Bilyeu, executive director of the National Association of State Retirement Administrators. In fact, public pension plans across the country are 80 percent funded, on aggregate; that’s down from 101 percent funded in 2001, Bilyeu said. She spoke at The Council of State Governments policy academy, “Accounting for the State of Public Pensions,” Aug. 9.

States must make the connection between education and workforce development to compete in the global economy. Reducing the skills gap and providing an educated workforce are important not only to help individuals attain prosperity, but also to help states reach economic prosperity. This session explored how higher education initiatives—combined with effective state policy—will prepare America’s workforce to meet the needs of today’s employers.

This session explored what’s in store for your state in 2015 and beyond as experts forecast fiscal and economic trends for states and the nation. The discussion focused on the most significant fiscal and economic issues facing states—such as public pensions, tax reform and ways to foster entrepreneurship—and included insights about how states are tackling similar concerns.

After years of American companies sending jobs to other countries, recent trends suggest a surge in training workers at home and keeping production in the United States. Some manufacturers are bringing jobs back from overseas, a trend that many find hopeful for our economy. New hires topped 3 million in less than 2 years, with almost 2 million new workers coming on board in 2011. This policy academy addressed education and training to support American workers so they are the best-trained workforce in the world; ensuring efficiency and productivity by workers in domestic businesses; business incentives to invest in hiring and expanding; and technical support so companies can grow and expand.

Shortfalls in state-run retirement systems continue to grow, and in the 2012 fiscal year, the gap between promises to state workers and funding in the accounts reached $915 billion. Unfunded pension obligations can have significant implications for a state’s fiscal stability, including lower credit ratings, increased borrowing costs and the diversion of state resources away from other spending priorities like infrastructure and education.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for those with less than a high school diploma was11 percent in 2013 - nearly 4 percentage points higher than the national average and almost triple the unemployment rate for those with a bachelor's degree. 

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