Jolt to Economy, Lack of Details and Flexibility Create Problems for States
Stephen Fuller likens the pending budget cuts from sequestration to crash dieting.
“There’s a couple of ways to lose 40 pounds,” he said. “Going on a starvation diet is one of them. That’s sequestration. (Then there’s) working out and cutting out dessert and not eating so much bread and reducing the portion size—you’re actually stronger and healthier when you get done and you’ve accomplished the same thing.”
It’s no secret that state leaders make good national leaders. Numerous presidents and members of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate have served in governor’s offices and state legislatures, as well as other executive branch offices, before moving on to Capitol Hill. Three former state leaders—all of whom are alumni of The Council of State Governments’ Henry Toll Fellowship Program and who are completing their freshmen terms in Congress—share lessons they took with them from their service in state capitols and what they are learning in the halls of the U.S. Capitol.
After spending the fall on the campaign circuit, Congress will return to work with an economy-killing challenge before it. Priority one for the lame-duck Congress will be to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff, a set of eight statutory tax increases and spending cuts that collectively would shrink the economy by $600 billion and could tip the country back into recession.
While the strategies Congress will xpursue to meet this challenge won’t be clear until the dust settles from the election, some common themes are already coming into view.
In early July, one unusual item came up for bid on the online auction giant eBay. The listing read, “One Slightly Used But Extremely Successful Pennsylvania Public High School.”
The high school in question was The Learning Center, an alternative school in the Neshaminy School District. The district, faced with a $14 million deficit, considered closing the school, according to news reports. The eBay listing—which had bids starting at just under $600,000—offered one lucky buyer naming rights, a large pizza, a coffee mug and the chance to deliver the commencement address.
Perhaps, as the saying goes, there are no silver bullets in life.
Today, however, the data clearly tell us that the closest thing a state has to a silver bullet for creating a successful 21st century economy and an improved quality of life—better health, lower crime, citizens who contribute—is a dramatic increase in the number of college educated people in its workforce age population. The connection between states with a more educated population and increased per capita income, tax revenues, public health, and citizen engagement, as well as lower crime, smoking and obesity rates is clear.
Danville, Ky., High School physics teacher Danny Goodwin gave his students the following assignment: Create from scratch a substance so viscous it would hold in place a 500-gram weight on one end of a two-foot-long board when raised to create a ramp.
Students did not receive a how-to guide. Through trial and error they created their gluey concoctions and lathered them on their boards, then elevated the boards as high as possible before the weights slowly pulled loose and slid down the incline.
Growing up, I was fortunate to have teachers who encouraged their students to explore areas of learning they were curious about. Having the freedom to try things out allowed me to develop a passion for computing—which eventually led me and a fellow student, Paul Allen, to start Microsoft.
Being lucky enough to have great teachers also nurtured a love of learning that has stayed with me ever since. As I told school leaders recently at the annual conference of the National Association of Independent Schools, my own experience in school is one of the reasons I’m so passionate about the work our foundation is doing in education.
It can sometimes be hard to find common ground in the heat of a legislative session. Finding common ground with someone from another political party often can be even more elusive. But some legislators have found a way to work across the aisle.
Viviette Applewhite has voted in every presidential election since she cast her first ballot for John F. Kennedy in 1960.
But the 93-year-old Philadelphia resident’s streak may end this year.
“I’m going to miss this one, though, because I don’t have any ID,” she explained in a video statement aired at a May 1 news conference at the Capitol. That’s because of a new Pennsylvania law that requires her to present photo identification at the polls.