In response to mounting budget pressures, state governments have cut aid to local governments. At the same time, policymakers are calling for more efficiency at the local level in order to make the most of limited financial resources.

States, meanwhile, are feeling the fiscal and political pressure to improve disclosure in their programs that provide tax breaks and grants to businesses.

A vital tool for policymakers across the region, Comparative Data Reports (CDRs) offer a snapshot of conditions on a number of issues. Published annually, the CDRs track a multitude of revenue sources, appropriations levels, and performance measures in Southern states, and provide a useful tool to state government officials and staff. CDRs are available for adult correctional systems, comparative revenues and revenue forecasts, education, Medicaid, and transportation.

During the current fiscal crisis, most states in the Midwest have chosen not to enact broad-based tax increases — a trend likely to continue as new annual and biennial budgets are finalized. 

Former U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson has six good reasons for wanting to see the country address its debt problems. His co-chair on the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, Erskine Bowles, has eight reasons. Those reasons would be their grandchildren.

While fiscal concerns usually top the list of important issues for states—even in good economic times—over the next few years, the dialogue among state policymakers will almost exclusively be on the topic of money: budgets, federal assistance, taxes, spending, borrowing and, ultimately, surviving.

The national recession didn’t strike every part of the United States with equal force, and it appears the Great Lakes region got the worst of the severe economic blow.

Unemployment rates remain high and people are unemployed for longer, exhausting state unemployment trust funds quickly. More states are borrowing from the federal government to cover costs, which could have an impact on future fiscal stability.

All signs are pointing to a revenue rebound for most states in the Midwest in fiscal year 2011. However, thanks in large part to a loss in federal funding, state lawmakers will face perhaps their biggest fiscal challenge yet in crafting FY 2012 budgets.

Taxes were the number one ballot issue across the states in 2010.  Across the country, voters in 37 states considered 160 ballot proposals, many of them related to fiscal and economic issues. The issues included property taxes, 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.