Policy Area

The states’ current fiscal crisis is due not only to the country’s economic downturn but also to changes in fiscal federalism that have exposed state fiscal systems to the impacts of federal policymaking, economic developments and demographic changes to greater degrees than in the past. Essentially, the states face growing long-term contradictions between escalating spending pressures and eroding tax bases over which states have only limited control. Short-term crisis-management actions, such as cutting spending, increasing taxes, accelerating tax collections, delaying bill payments, expanding gambling and using up reserves, are damaging, stopgap tactics. Long-term solutions will require more fundamental remedial fiscal reform by both the federal government and the states.

Results-based decision-making in state government has gained considerable interest as part of government accountability. Use of outcome information by elected officials and managers in budgeting and improving services to citizens still falls far short of its potential. This article provides suggestions for more effective collection and use of performance information.

Until recently, literature about the effects of term limits was by necessity speculative in nature. However, a recent multistate study undertaken by three legislative organizations and a team of political scientists has begun to outline the changes taking place in term-limited state legislatures.
 

Congressional preemption of state governments’ regulatory powers dates to 1790, but it generally did not have a major impact until 1965, when the number of preemptive statutes increased sharply. Most congressional preemptions involve commerce, the environment, finance and health. Technological developments and interest group lobbying will result in the enactment of new preemption statutes — particularly in the areas of banking, communications, finance services, insurance and taxation — unless states initiate actions producing harmonious interstate regulatory policies.

In his 2002 State of the Union message, President George W. Bush announced the creation of an umbrella citizen service initiative, the USA Freedom Corps, intended to dramatically increase volunteerism. Under this initiative, the Citizen Corps has the central responsibility for mobilizing local volunteers in emergency preparedness and response. Interviews of state officials who will implement Citizen Corps suggest a framework for understanding the success of federal volunteerism initiatives devolved to the state and local levels. Five factors appear important to implementation success: goal clarity, resource availability, promotional activity, management capacity, and the strength of the implementation network.

This article examines the success of the states in redrawing state legislative-district lines after the 2000 Census of Population. It describes the trends of this decade and highlights state experiences in dealing with both old and new issues in redistricting. Whereas the redistricting round of the 1990s was quite litigious, the 2000 round was less litigious with the states having high levels of success in adopting plans without judicial interference.

Judicial elections in 2000 and 2002 were far “nastier, noisier and costlier” than ever. Of the five states with hotly contested judicial elections in 2000 (Alabama, Illinois, Michigan, Mississippi and Ohio), only Ohio and Mississippi were lively again in 2002. But contrary to long-standing tradition and law, judicial elections are becoming more like other elections.

Chapter 2 of the 2003 Book of the States contains the following articles and tables:

This article reviews the most significant emerging trends in economic development and their ramifications for the states. It focuses on the role of information technology, the increasing regionalization of economic development and the new financing tools available to economic developers and how these tools have helped change the states’ development priorities.

This article traces the governorship in recent decades. It examines who the governors are, how they became governors and some of their recent political history. The author discusses the timing and costs of gubernatorial elections and changes in gubernatorial powers.
 

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