Jennifer Burnett

Author Articles

In 2016, 45 states plus the District of Columbia have sales taxes in place and five states do not. Tax rates in 2016 remained relatively unchanged from 2015, but have been creeping slowly upward over the past decade.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, state prison populations have grown significantly over the last few decades and in 36 states, the prison population has more than tripled as a share of the state population since 1978.  Spending on corrections has also increased in states: state corrections spending more than doubled between 1986 and 2013 (after adjusting for inflation), from $20 billion to over $47 billion.   

The past few years – particularly following the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri and subsequent investigations – have brought increased attention to a mounting problem: jailing the poor when they can’t pay fines and fees ordered by courts. This practice has been called the “criminalization of poverty”.

According to a new report from the Governing Institute, a majority of legislators understand that cyber threats are evolving and pose a risk to their state, but only 18 percent of respondents currently sit on a committee with cybersecurity as part of its mandate and 80 percent of respondents do not know if their state has a cyber-emergency incident plan in place.

Federal spending plays a significant role in state budgets and economies. In recent years, the percentage of state revenues coming from Washington, D.C., to the states has fluctuated, largely due to the end of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act—or stimulus—dollars and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

A group of CSG members recently visited the headquarters of CSG Associate member Esri, an international Geographic Information System software company, in Redlands, Calif., to discuss how to use data and apps to make better policy decisions in their states. “More mayors lose their jobs over snowplowing than any other reason,” said Richard Leadbeater, public relations manager for Esri. Leadbeater flashed a map on a screen showing how data can be used to help make better decisions about snowplow deployment.

Millennials (born between 1982 and 2000) are now the largest generation in the U.S. with an estimated population of 83.1 million; that’s bigger than the baby boomer generation. Although their numbers are significant, they aren’t showing up to vote.

The New York Times says that the oil industry is in its “deepest downturn since the 1990s, if not earlier”. The price of a barrel of oil has plummeted, falling more 70 percent since mid-2014, and gas prices at the pump have followed – falling from $2.21 one year ago to $1.70 today (AAA). Unfortunately, a drop in energy prices means a headache for several states that rely heavily on severance taxes for revenue.

A majority of states (35) impose at least one form of severance tax, which is a tax on natural resource extraction. While overall severance taxes don’t make up a large percentage of total state taxes collected – 2.1 percent in 2014 – they have very different impacts across the states. For example, in 2014 severance taxes collected ranged from 72 percent of total tax revenue in Alaska and 54 percent of revenue in North Dakota to less than 1 percent in 18 states. In seven states, severance taxes make up 10 percent or more of total tax collections. 

A state of emergency was declared in eleven states in response to Winter Storm Jonas, which slammed the East Coast last week, killing at least 37 people and leaving 250,000 people without power, according to the Weather Channel. 

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