The State of the States: Governors Keep Agendas Short

Examination of this year’s State of the State addresses indicates governors are wary of storm clouds developing along the fiscal horizon.1 Their addresses to residents on the health of states reflect some caution in negotiating budget and policy agendas going forward.  Tennessee’s governor, Phil Bredesen, perhaps terms it the best, stating that, “In the first year we crewed together, we had a full-blown storm to navigate. The next couple of years were in calmer waters, and last year was positively bright and sunny and with a following wind. This year, so far, we’ve got some heavy seas once again; not a real storm yet, but definitely some attention-getting waves. There’s an old sailor’s adage: You can’t control the wind, but you can adjust your sails. We can’t control the national economy, but we can make the adjustments that let us ride it out.” So this year, governors are sticking to taut budget scripts, recognizing the challenges they face, given a deteriorating economy. They are cognizant of balancing needs and do not want to lose ground with overreaching spending promises.

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About the Author
Katherine Willoughby is professor of Public Administration and Urban Studies in the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University in Atlanta. Her research  concentrates on state and local government budgeting and financial management, public policy development and public organization theory. She has conducted extensive research in the area of state budgeting practices, with a concentration on performance measurement applicability at this level of government in the United States.

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