Book of the States 2011

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 provided $48 billion to states for transportation infrastructure projects. States achieved significant successes in 2010 in  meeting deadlines associated with the legislation, starting and completing projects on time and under budget, creating jobs and doing it all with little fraud or waste. Still, some questions have been raised about whether the stimulus could have had a greater impact, which types of projects were funded and which states received the most funding. Despite its political unpopularity in 2010, the Recovery Act proved its worth to state transportation officials around the country.

As the chief legal officers of the states, commonwealths and territories of the United States, attorneys general serve as counselors to state government agencies and legislatures, and as representatives of the public interest. A large group of new state attorneys general were sworn in at the beginning of 2011, following the November 2010 elections. This year will bring a continued effort to fight financial fraud but attorneys general now have expanded enforcement authority under a new federal law. The National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) is also making a priority of providing the highest quality legal training for those in state government service.

The state fiscal environment remains very weak despite the turnaround in revenue growth. It  will be at least several years before many states see revenues return to their previous peak levels and several years more before revenues reach similar proportions of the economy. Though states may be less inclined to seek the tax rate increases that occurred after previous recessions, many are examining ways to tax cross-border activity more effectively.

State governments play an important role in national and regional economic conditions and are subject to prevailing economic conditions. The Census Bureau’s official statistics provide a full picture of the early impact of the most recent recession from tax revenues to expenditures to employment.

Financial reporting and auditing professionals ensure that the public has a clear view of the health and viability of state governments. They are keepers of the public trust. Today, however, these professionals face more demands than ever and have fewer resources than ever to support their important efforts. Cumbersome, and often burdensome, processes and financial limitations are now colliding with a multi-faceted push for financial reporting that is faster, cheaper and better. Can states sustain current efforts, and even go beyond, pushing the limits of their capacity to provide speed, economy and quality?

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