What's New

Our agricultural programs were intended to move cash to rural areas during the Great Depression. Today, our programs make large income transfers to farmers. The rationale for this is unarticulated. Our programs could be more closely tied to the basic rationale for government’s involvement in agriculture.

The domestic competition to create and retain jobs in the sour economy over the last two years has forced states to get more aggressive than ever in facilitating economic development. However, in pursuing aggressive approaches to recruiting new companies and preserve existing jobs, state and local officials have had to contend with the ramifications of the one of the recession’s largest casualties—manufacturing.

How can we take a bird’s eye view of the economic development landscape and the features on it that are causing state legislators to rethink their workforce development strategies? As industries look farther afield for skilled workers, particularly in high-tech sectors, the states are doubling their efforts to educate and train people in order to attract and grow industry domestically. A state-by-state overview of new job creation initiatives follows the overview.

Since its inception, members of the White House Task Force on Energy Project Streamlining have held over 100 meetings to listen to the concerns of developers, environmentalists,  federal and state agencies. The first year’s activities and accomplishments were many, mostly falling in the areas of assisting in the resolution of bottlenecks in a number of specific energy projects. In its second year, the task force continues to work on individual energy related projects bottlenecked in the system and has also begun to focus on finding solutions to more systemic issues.

The states have expanded their role in environmental protection over the past three decades and now implement most of the federal environmental statutes. With this heightened responsibility has come an increase in state financial commitments to pay for these programs and the states have met this responsibility for years. During the past few years, however, the fiscal crisis in the states, coupled with many new federal environmental rules and a lack of new federal money, has left the states with at least a $1 billion annual gap in the amounts they need to implement current federal law. These shortfalls have been documented in several studies. This situation, if not corrected, may lead to greater risks to the public from exposure to environmental hazards. The federal government should consider providing funding or other relief to the states for further implementation of federal rules.

On December 8, 2003, President Bush signed into law the most far-reaching expansion of health care coverage since the Medicare and Medicaid programs were created. The Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act of 2003 adds prescription drug coverage for the nation’s 40 million seniors and disabled individuals enrolled in Medicare. The law also contains a host of provisions that will have an enormous impact on state health care programs as well as state budgets.

“After a year of study, and after reviewing research and testimony, the Commission finds that recovery from mental illness is now a real possibility. The promise of the New Freedom Initiative—a life in the community for everyone—can be realized. Yet, for too many Americans with mental illnesses, the mental health services and supports they need remain fragmented, disconnected and often inadequate, frustrating the opportunity for recovery.”1 - President Bush’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health. July 2003.

Crime is down, but prison populations continue to rise. As state officials struggle with budget shortfalls, it is increasingly important to understand the changing nature of state corrections, both from a demographic perspective and a programmatic one. If state officials are to ever solve the “revolving-door-of-corrections,” they must provide effective programming and planning whose ultimate goal is the reentry of offenders into society.

States’ welfare challenges are becoming more complex. As the economy weakened, caseload decline either diminished or reversed. Employment rates declined for both welfare recipients  and those who recently left welfare. More who left welfare either have returned to it or are disconnected, living without a job, welfare, or someone else who can support them. Fortunately, more who left welfare are staying connected to other government safety net supports. States’ welfare offices must combine the message of work and assessment of work barriers with a complex array of services that remediate barriers, track families after they leave welfare, and support working poor families.

Until now, the focus of states on the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) has been on compliance. States first struggled to figure out what was required by the legislation, and then concentrated on getting the state plan approved by the U.S. Department of Education. Now that this initial stage has past, states are turning their attention to implementation. They are now trying to understand how to incorporate NCLB into the state’s framework of educational governance, and how the legislation can be used to help the state meet its own goals for education performance.