Budget proposals released by both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate earlier this month look to make significant changes to a number of key federal and state programs, including the State Children's Health Insurance Program—or CHIP—Medicaid, the Highway Trust Fund and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Both budgets would make significant cuts in discretionary spending while increasing military spending. The House budget aims to cut national spending by $5.5 trillion in 10 years and balance the federal budget by 2024. The Senate budget would cut the deficit by $5.1 trillion over 10 years and reaches a balanced federal budget by 2025.

Congress has by the end of this week to pass legislation to fund the Department of Homeland Security. After Feb. 27, the department will be forced to cut all nonessential personnel. The funding dispute between Republican and Democrat lawmakers largely revolves around the executive order on immigration President Obama issued last November that expanded the number of people eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. To add more uncertainty to the issue, a federal court in Texas has temporarily blocked the executive order saying it would place major burdens on state governments and strain state budgets. President Obama has vowed to appeal the court’s decision; however, the administration will not proceed with the provisions outlined in the executive order until the appeals process is completed.

President Obama continued to build on the theme of his State of the Union speech—middle class economics—in his $3.99 trillion budget proposal. It calls for an end to fiscal austerity and proposes higher spending levels for domestic and military spending to be paid for by higher taxes on the wealthy and large corporations.The budget proposes significant reforms in infrastructure, workforce development and education. The president’s budget also proposes the creation of new federal-state partnerships and modifies several existing programs.

With the 2016 elections on the horizon, states will be looking at new policies to improve the security, efficiency and administration of elections. U.S. elections by their very nature are decentralized and often complex with each state determining its own election laws and voting equipment. Five elections policy areas loom large for state policymakers in 2015—voting technology, overseas voting, data sharing between the states, voting law challenges and campaign finance.

Despite political gridlock and partisanship in Washington, D.C., Congress and the president recognize intellectual property as a driver of economic growth in America. Unfortunately, cybercrime is on the rise, and intellectual property is oftentimes the primary target of cyber criminals. To protect intellectual property, the White House, Congress, and state governments all are working diligently to enhance cybersecurity.