Capitol Ideas July/August

It can sometimes be hard to find common ground in the heat of a legislative session. Finding common ground with someone from another political party often can be even more elusive. But some legislators have found a way to work across the aisle.

Viviette Applewhite has voted in every presidential election since she cast her first ballot for John F. Kennedy in 1960.

But the 93-year-old Philadelphia resident’s streak may end this year.

“I’m going to miss this one, though, because I don’t have any ID,” she explained in a video statement aired at a May 1 news conference at the Capitol. That’s because of a new Pennsylvania law that requires her to present photo identification at the polls.

Things are starting to look up for state pension systems.

“Conditions affecting public pension plans continue to improve,” said Keith Brainard, research director for the National Association of State Retirement Administrators.

That’s good news following years of warnings about the sustainability of state public pension systems. A Pew Center on the States 2010 report warned of a $1 trillion gap between what states had set aside for pensions and the real price tag for those benefits.

States Strive to Find a ‘New Normal’ in Providing Services

When Jennifer Granholm was governor of Michigan, she had to make cuts in state government—a lot of cuts. “It was two terms of shrinking the size of government and dealing with the shrinkage of tax revenues … from the contraction in our economy,” Granholm said.  She cut nearly $15 billion of state spending, shrinking the size of Michigan state government by 13 percent, more than any state in the country, from the turn of the century to the end of her second term in 2011. It was necessary, but it wasn’t easy.