Policy Area

Congress has failed to act in a timely manner on the reauthorization of the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families block grant. Nonetheless, the next generation of welfare reform is already underway. A slowly growing economy, the end of rapid caseload reductions, massive state and local budget problems, and the constraints of a closed-ended block grant will pose serious constraints on state flexibility and on states’ ability to continue new programs developed under the block grant. At the same time, a larger portion of child-only cases, increased sanction rates, a residual population of longer-term cases and the needs of the working poor will require new programs and more effective services. Although it will be difficult, states have little option but to begin to address these problems without waiting for federal action.

Chapter 4 of the 2003 Book of the States contains the following articles and tables:

When it comes to voters’ reactions to initiatives and referenda on the ballot in 2002, “cautious” was the word of the day. Amidst concerns about war, terrorism and the economy, the voters once again defied party labeling and voted their conscience when it came to ballot measures. In a time of great uncertainty, voters picked through the list of statewide ballot measures and systematically made their feelings known, while at the same time not revealing whether their underlying principles lean more liberal or conservative. The great race to categorize the voters’ political beliefs will once again have to wait for another election day.

The state fiscal boom of the late 1990s was driven by exceptional forces unlikely to be repeated in the years ahead. The bursting of this fiscal bubble has made the current budget crisis far worse than the relatively mild current economic weakness might suggest. Even after the economy recovers, state finances are likely to be tight for the next several years.

Chapter 1 of the 2003 Book of the States contains the following articles and tables:

The distribution of federal funds affects a wide array of organizations, individuals and activities throughout the United States economy. Data abound on the size of the overall federal government budget and on spending by federal departments and agencies. However, only one primary source shows not only the agency and program detail, but also the geographic distribution of these funds: the U.S. Bureau of the Census’ Consolidated Federal Funds Report. This article provides details and insights into the make-up and significance of these huge flows of federal funds on state and local areas.

The roles and activities of interest groups and lobbyists in the states have received increased attention with the shift of additional responsibilities to the states in recent years and continuing state revenue problems. The authors have been studying this issue since the early 1980s and report a number of important trends regarding the changing nature of the lobbying game in the state capitals: greater representation; more sophisticated lobbyists and multifaceted lobbying campaigns.

State budget shortfalls are expected to balloon to $82 billion by 2004. What avenues are available for governors to bring about fiscal solvency in the states? This article assesses their plans to navigate this continuing fiscal storm. The author then reviews the state government revenue situation and draws conclusions based on the content of governors’ 2003 state of the state addresses.

The regulation of political money continues to rank high on most states’ list of priorities. Experimentation continues in many areas as reform measures have been adopted both by state legislatures and statewide initiatives. Some discernable trends are clear, including more emphasis on public-funding programs (the “clean elections” movement); regulating the scope, nature and use of contributions; disclosure of political advertisements; stronger enforcement of existing laws and concern regarding independent expenditures.

Chapter 6 of the 2003 Book of the States contains the following articles and tables:

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