The State of the States: Governors Mirror New Administration Priorities

The full force of the fiscal tsunami has been felt by all 50 states. Governors are weary of the bad news and anxious about keeping state offices open, programs operating and support flowing to the public. Governors apprise residents in their states about their budget and policy direction each year through state of state addresses. This research assesses the 2009 addresses to determine the focus of state leaders’ agendas in this down economy. Findings indicate that governors talked explicitly with citizens about managing; their mood is somber, sometimes even angry. Still, these state leaders are surprisingly hopeful of the role states play in the everyday life of Americans. Most governors remained on task by providing the public with plans and ideas for expanding education and economic opportunities, and supporting healthy, safe and environmentally sound communities. A majority of governors even discussed advancements necessary regarding government accountability and responsiveness while close to one-third emphasized the need for greater transparency—issues that have been specifically targeted by the new administration in Washington.

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About the Author
Katherine Willoughby is professor of public management and policy in the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University in Atlanta. Her research concentrates on state and local government budgeting and financial management, public policy development and public organization theory. She has conducted extensive research in the area of state budgeting practices, with a concentration on performance measurement applicability at this level of government in the United States.

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