The Current State

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.”

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.

Two years ago, Colorado reported success in dramatically reducing the state’s teen birth and abortion rates by 48 percent from 2009 to 2014 through a privately funded initiative that provided long-acting reversible contraception, known as LARCs. LARCs—intrauterine devices, or IUDs, and subdermal contraceptive implants—are highly effective forms of birth control, with a pregnancy rate of less than 1 percent within the first year according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For comparison, oral contraceptive pills have a pregnancy rate of 9 percent and male condoms have a pregnancy rate of 18 percent in the first year. The LARC devices are effective for three to 10 years. In the last days of budget negotiation in Colorado in early April, legislators approved $2.5 million in state funding to provide LARCs to low-income women.

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.

Although not set on the usual April 15 date this year, the deadline to file federal tax returns is quickly approaching. Millions of people across the country will receive tax refunds and face decisions about how to spend the money. According to the annual Tax Returns Survey released in February, 49.2 percent of those expecting a refund planned to save the money rather than spend it immediately, the highest percentage in the survey’s history.

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