Policy Area

CSG South

Few other topics generate more spirited discourse and disagreement among policymakers than a discussion on devising a comprehensive retirement system to account for the huge number of “baby boomers” scheduled to retire in the next few years. The primary goal of this retirement system would be to sustain participants with adequate benefits for the duration of their retirement years. However, a spate of economic setbacks in the past few years, such as the sputtering stock market, rising deficits at the federal and state levels, rising fears over terror attacks, mounting corporate scandals affecting consumer confidence, dwindling corporate profits resulting in severe cutbacks and a jobless economic recovery, continues to cause stresses in the retirement plans of millions of Americans. Hence, it probably is not a stretch to maintain that an increasing number of Americans, particularly those nearing retirement age, remain extremely apprehensive about their retirement situation in the years ahead.

Many states have continued to change their human resource management by restructuring personnel agencies, implementing civil service reform plans, reducing the number of position classifications; and planning for future workforce to meet new expectations and demands.

Since its inception, members of the White House Task Force on Energy Project Streamlining have held over 100 meetings to listen to the concerns of developers, environmentalists,  federal and state agencies. The first year’s activities and accomplishments were many, mostly falling in the areas of assisting in the resolution of bottlenecks in a number of specific energy projects. In its second year, the task force continues to work on individual energy related projects bottlenecked in the system and has also begun to focus on finding solutions to more systemic issues.

Reduced levels of state constitutional activity and no major new trends were recorded in 2003, a typical “off” year. Among developments were a comprehensive tax and spending proposal and an official constitutional commission, both in Alabama, and the historic use of the state  constitutional recall election in California.

During the next few years, state government human resource professionals will be focused on building and maintaining the workforce of the future. With budget deficits, an aging workforce, and rising benefits costs, state governments are challenged and will continue to be so. State human resources is moving from an administrative, “paper-pushing” role to a consultative role allowing it to play a strategic part in the future success of state government.

Until now, the focus of states on the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) has been on compliance. States first struggled to figure out what was required by the legislation, and then concentrated on getting the state plan approved by the U.S. Department of Education. Now that this initial stage has past, states are turning their attention to implementation. They are now trying to understand how to incorporate NCLB into the state’s framework of educational governance, and how the legislation can be used to help the state meet its own goals for education performance.

An effective system of interstate cooperation is essential to the operation of U. S. federalism. The research reported here shows that, on average, a state belongs to 25.4 interstate compacts and, during the 1990s, joined other states in 25 legal actions and enacted 7.7 uniform laws. However, the variation both across and within states as to the degree and type of cooperation reflects the tension between cooperation and competition.

The rapid pace of technological change and innovation that transformed government service delivery in the 1990s has been slowed in recent years by the bleak fiscal realities facing most states. Although the demand for online services and 24/7 access to information remains strong, information technology (IT) initiatives must now demonstrate a clear return on investment with an emphasis on system integration and infrastructure consolidation. States are also recognizing the importance of centralized IT oversight, common standards and shared solutions to save money and deliver more effective services to citizens and businesses.

States’ welfare challenges are becoming more complex. As the economy weakened, caseload decline either diminished or reversed. Employment rates declined for both welfare recipients  and those who recently left welfare. More who left welfare either have returned to it or are disconnected, living without a job, welfare, or someone else who can support them. Fortunately, more who left welfare are staying connected to other government safety net supports. States’ welfare offices must combine the message of work and assessment of work barriers with a complex array of services that remediate barriers, track families after they leave welfare, and support working poor families.

A survey of municipal leagues and county associations in 41 states reveals several state legislatures initiated actions to assist general purpose local governments by broadening their discretionary authority and establishing special assistance programs. Nevertheless, more than one-half of the respondents reported the legislatures had imposed additional mandates since  1990 and one-third reported the imposition of additional restraints. Only two respondents indicated court decisions generally favored local governments, six reported narrow interpretation of local powers and the remaining respondents reported mixed decisions.

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