Audrey Wall

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Chapter 10 of the 2015 Book of the States contains the following articles and tables:

Voters looked favorably on ballot propositions in 2014, approving 67 percent of the 158 measures they decided. Marijuana advocates scored important victories in Alaska, Oregon and Washington, D.C., and minimum wage advocates continued their unbroken run of successful measures in five more states.

The movement to add environmental bills of rights to state constitutions is important as one manifestation of a wider environmentalism that began to sweep the country in the 1970s, but also because it sheds interesting light on state constitutions and constitutional processes. The states proved to be more hospitable for this type of constitutional reform than the federal because state constitutional traditions diverge substantially from the national model. In particular, the argument is that the openness of state constitutional processes to their political environment facilitated the effort to place environmental rights, as well as a variety of other environmental provisions, in state constitutions.   

Fiscal conditions for states were somewhat mixed in the 2014 fiscal year as state general fund revenue growth declined due to the impact of the federal fiscal cliff, while total state spending growth accelerated due to increased federal Medicaid funds from the Affordable Care Act. The number of states making midyear budget cuts remained low and states maintained stable rainy day fund levels. In the 2015 fiscal year, states are expecting both revenue and spending to grow slowly, but below the historical rate of growth. It is likely that budget proposals for the 2016 fiscal year and beyond will remain mostly cautious with limited spending growth.

The 2014 mid-term elections magnified the polarization between the political parties in Washington, D.C., and between blue and red states. In that respect, the elections signaled continuity in American federalism. Despite their congressional victories, lacking the presidency,  Republicans are not in a position to effect major intergovernmental change. Increased Republican strength in the states will heighten state-federal conflicts over core Republican issues, while predominantly Democratic states generally will support federal policies endorsed by President Barack Obama. Whether one regards this state of affairs as obstructive or constructive federalism depends on one’s point of view.

Fiscal conditions for states were somewhat mixed in the 2014 fiscal year as state general fund revenue growth declined due to the impact of the federal fiscal cliff, while total state spending growth accelerated due to increased federal Medicaid funds from the Affordable Care Act. The number of states making midyear budget cuts remained low and states maintained stable rainy day fund levels. In the 2015 fiscal year, states are expecting both revenue and spending to grow slowly, but below the historical rate of growth. It is likely that budget proposals for the 2016 fiscal year and beyond will remain mostly cautious with limited spending growth.

The 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reserves powers to states in three broad spheres—a sphere most commonly controlled by local governments, a sphere controlled by state governments, and a shared state and local government sphere. Each state historically followed the English Common Law Ultra Vires Rule, and the state legislature exercised plenary powers over its political subdivisions.

The word “data” may appear to many policymakers and managers as a modern-day “open sesame,” to enter the cave of well-run states. But, while gathering facts and figures is a crucial first step, actually analyzing, utilizing and communicating them is the key to progress. That’s not easy.


The 2014 election resulted in Republican dominance of state legislative control unmatched in nearly a century. Riding a surge of disaffection with a president in the sixth year of office, combined with low, midterm voter turnout among Democrats, Republicans won big. They also continued to benefit from a built in redistricting advantage stemming from the 2010 election success by the party. Essentially, everything went one direction in the 2014 election—the direction of the Grand Old Party.

State policymakers hear frequently from employers that they cannot find skilled workers for open positions. Many of these positions are middle-skill jobs that require some form of postsecondary training, but not a bachelor’s degree. This article discusses state strategies to close skill gaps and meet employer skill needs.

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