On a luminous August afternoon, civic leaders from across the country gathered before the longstanding canopy of brick arches at The Council of State Governments’ home in Lexington, Ky., to observe a milestone in the organization’s history.
When people ask us what we do for a living, we find ourselves hesitating in a fashion we imagine others find a bit odd. We know this doesn’t seem like the kind of question anybody should have trouble answering. But we’ve become a mixture of researchers/reporters/editors/fiscal analysts/public speakers/evaluators/advisers and so on—all pertaining to state and local government.
As 2016 begins, states are fiscally stable—and the financial situation appears to be pretty good in many cases—but challenges loom ahead as few states have been able to restore cuts made during the Great Recession and resources remain limited.
Across the country, transportation options are being deployed to revitalize communities, revive sluggish economies and change the way we live and work. In particular, transit stops have become a focal point for many areas hoping to generate the development of office, retail and commercial spaces and flourishing neighborhoods around them.
Broadband has become the electricity of the 21st century. Everyone needs it. But a digital divide exists between urban and rural America. According to the Federal Communications Commission’s2015 Broadband Progress Report, more than half of rural Americans lack access to 25 megabits per second download and 3 megabits per second upload speeds, the FCC’s new broadband benchmark for 2015. Comparatively, only 8 percent of urban Americans lack access to the same speeds.
The U.S. has one of the most competitive economies in the world and many foreign businesses strive to get a foothold in the American market. With nearly 12 million Americans working for a majority-owned foreign company in the United States, trade proponents hope that the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP, will spur further investment in the U.S.
States that expanded their Medicaid eligibility and took advantage of the 100 percent federal funding available for the first three years under the Affordable Care Act will find the free lunch—if there ever was a free lunch—gone as they build their budgets for the 2017 fiscal year during this year’s legislative sessions.
For states in the coming year, no news is good news when it comes to finances.
“Overall, finances in states are picking up pretty much everywhere to varying degrees,” said Scott Pattison, executive director of the National Governors Association. “Most budget folks are operating with the expectation of rather cautious revenue growth—modest revenue growth.”
Inaction and delays associated with appropriations and authorization processes in Congress continue to cause uncertainty and make it more difficult for state and local governments to manage fiscal resources and strategically plan. This situation is unlikely to change soon, recognizing that election year politics may introduce further complications, exacerbating these problems.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s final Clean Power Plan, or CPP, is the first regulation that seeks to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. A top issue for states in 2016 will be determining how to comply.