While STEM education has captured policymakers’ attention, few states have taken a systemic approach to STEM policymaking to ensure program coordination, reach, sustainability and return on investment. However, a few states have taken strides to establish statewide coordination, adequate and reliable funding, and evaluation. Those states have demonstrated results, including increased recruitment of female and minority students. Public-private partnerships and structures to formalize the role of business and industry in developing and implementing STEM programs are additional means to enhance these efforts and ensure alignment with employment trends.
In the world of state emergency management and homeland security, 2017 has been a year of new faces, continuous threats and opportunities for innovation. Much like 2016, 2017 is on track to equal or perhaps surpass the challenges it may pose to state emergency management professionals. It began with the Trump administration tapping a retired military general for the top job at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and a former State Emergency Management Director to head the Federal Emergency Management Agency, not to mention 2017 has already had 25 presidential and emergency disaster declarations. State emergency management professionals used virtual disaster assistance and training, introducing a new wave of technology to combat the increasing challenges of disaster management. The challenge in 2018 will be to protect investments and still move forward with creative problem solving while state and federal budgets continue to become tighter and tighter.
In recent years, the rate at which women enter into state-level offices has slowed following several decades of gains in the late 20th century. Efforts to recruit women for elective and appointive positions will be critical in determining what the future holds for women in state government.
U.S. population trends are showing something of a dual personality when viewed from the perspective of the nation as a whole or that of its regions. Nationally, population growth has yet again hit a new low, foreshadowing a likely future of only modest gains. Yet, on a more positive note, there is a notable rise in migration flows within the U.S. relocating more residents to fast-growing Sun Belt states as the post-recession economy revives.
There are few areas of state government more important to finances and operations than procurement. Although there are no aggregated figures for 50-state spending on goods and services, the importance of the state procurement function is demonstrated by the substantial sums posted by individual states. An audit several years ago in Arizona put procurement spending at $9.8 billion, about 27 percent of the total state budget.1 An October 2016 report from New Mexico’s Legislative Finance Committee estimated the slice of the budget spent on goods and services at as much as $13 billion out of a total budget of $18 billion.2
The current economic cost of professional and occupational regulation directly impacts one quarter1 of the working population in the U.S. The number of professions or occupations requiring a government license is nearly one quarter2 of the current working population. The majority3 of this increase has been the result of the increasing number of professions or occupations requiring a license. Recent domestic evidence also shows that states vary dramatically in their rates of licensure, ranging from 12 percent to 33 percent.
“Sin taxes” are often viewed as budget savers, despite their rather small role in the state budgets. In fiscal year 2016, states raised $25 billion in tax revenues from the two most commonly taxed so called “sins,” like tobacco and alcohol, which represented slightly over 2.7 percent of total state tax revenues. States are more likely to raise taxes on tobacco products than on alcohol, even though both pose a significant public health threat. Since 2000, 48 states increased cigarette tax rates about 130 times, while very few states increased tax rates on alcohol. Despite the increases in tax rates on tobacco, inflation-adjusted tobacco tax revenues declined by 0.8 percent between fiscal years 2008 and 2016. The opposite is true for alcohol taxes. Despite the relatively stable tax rates on alcoholic beverages, inflation-adjusted alcohol tax revenues grew by 12.2 percent over the same period. Tobacco tax revenues declined because declines in consumption more than made up for higher tax rates. The growth in alcohol tax revenues is largely attributable to growth in alcohol consumption.
How do states develop and manage their budgets, and how does this process vary across states? The latest edition of NASBO’s Budget Processes in the States report provides self-reported data from all 50 states and the District of Columbia on many aspects of state budget practices, such as: the budget calendar, revenue forecasting, gubernatorial budget authority, balanced budget requirements, tax and expenditure limitations, debt restrictions, approaches to budget development, rainy day funds, tools to monitor and control expenditures, and the use of performance measures.