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The federal government spends a lot of money in the states; it infused $3.1 trillion into states in the 2013 fiscal year. Programs include such things as Social Security and Medicaid, and salaries and wages for federal employees living and working in those states. In the 2013 fiscal year, federal spending in the states was the equivalent of about one-fifth of states’ economic activity, according to a report released in December by The Pew Charitable Trusts, “Federal Spending in the States 2004–2013.”

State policymakers will be dealing with a range of issues in various policy areas this year, ranging from health care and fiscal issues to energy and the environment. The most pressing questions facing policymakers likely will center on finding revenue to fund basic government programs, such as Medicaid and education, and looking to create jobs for state residents. The Council of State Governments this week released its annual listing of top 5 issues legislators will face this year in education, energy and the environment, federal affairs, fiscal and economic development, health, international affairs, interstate compacts, transportation and workforce development.

Andy Karellas, CSG's Director of Federal Affairs, outlines the top five issues in federal affairs policy for 2015, including unfunded mandates, pre-emption, international trade agreements, intergovernmental coordination, and the discontinuation by the U.S. Census Bureau of the Consolidated Federal Funds Report. 

Rebekah Fitzgerald, Program Manager for Energy and Environmental Policy, outlines the top five issues in energy and environmental policy for 2015, including new proposed federal air and water regulations, grid reliability, the Endangered Species Act, and the use of science-based decision making. 

CSG Director of Education Policy Pam Goins outlines the top five issues in education policy for 2015, including school readiness, experiential and work-based learning, academic success for at-risk populations, innovative state accountability systems, and advance attainment of degrees, certificates and other high-quality credentials. 

Catherine Bray, Director of CSG Global, outlines the top five issues in international affairs policy for 2015, including export promotion programs, attracting foreign direct investment, international trade agreements, trade facilitation, and the internationalization of higher education. 

Crady deGolian, Director of CSG's National Center for Interstate Compacts, outlines the top 5 compacts to watch in 2015, including those dealing with medical, EMS, physical therapy, and telepsychology licensing, and the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement, which seeks to achieve interstate reciprocity in the regulation of distance regulation.  

Sean Slone, Program Manager for Transportation Policy, outlines the top five issues in transportation policy for 2015, including uncertain federal funding, alternative funding mechanisms such as public-private partnerships and tolling, and the ways infrastructure spending contribute to workforce development and growing the nation's economy.

CSG Director of Education Policy Pam Goins outlines the top five issues in workforce development policy for 2015, including job driven-training, reducing the skills gap through the use of career pathways, alignment of education and workforce development systems, services for the hard-to-employ, and veterans' employment.

Jennifer Burnett, Program Manager for Fiscal and Economic Development Policy, outlines the top five issues in fiscal and economic development policy for 2015,  including job creations strategies, state innovations in health care spending, public pension solvency, and federal funding uncertainty. 

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