Policy Area

Whereas the redistricting round of the 1990s can be described as the round of racial and ethnic predominance, the 2000 round showed a growing emergence of partisanship as the predominant pattern of conflict. The experience of state legislatures in the latest round should provide an overall pattern for state legislative redistricting agencies to weather the terrain and successfully create plans in the future. The future political and legal terrain will continue to be complex and multifaceted.

States are recovering from the recent fiscal crisis, but many will need to cut spending further or increase taxes to bring spending and revenue into line. In addition, states must confront fiscal pressures in Medicaid, elementary and secondary education, and other areas, and will face risks from actions to reduce the federal budget deficit.

In a global economy it will be difficult for states to maintain an economic base as low-cost producers of goods and services. States must, therefore, foster innovation and entrepreneurship in order to bring advanced technologies to market ahead of their global competitors. If our country is to maintain its current standard of living, then government must support innovation, particularly in science and technology, where it already has a competitive advantage over other nations.

State financial management leaders are working to offer increased services and transparency even as they contend with the need to accomplish more with limited resources. Government accountability, innovation in technology and strategic partnership initiatives will usher states into an exciting era of positive change.

In 2004, states turned an important corner on the road to fiscal recovery. Compared to previous years, revenue collections have recovered healthily, although they are not vastly surpassing budgeted estimates as they did in the late 1990s boom. The news isn’t all good, however. Expenditure pressures remain immense. Pent-up demand for spending in areas that were cut during the fiscal crisis still exists, while K–12 education and Medicaid battle each other to consume ever larger pieces of the budget pie. Federal budget deficits and their inevitable effect on domestic spending also will wear heavily on states as grants-in-aid are reduced or eliminated.

Economic developers and elected officials have long faced accusations of “corporate welfare” for the methods they use to lure companies to their turf. But a federal appeals court ruling in September 2004 that called certain Ohio tax breaks unconstitutional has also suddenly called everyone’s turf into question. While companies and states alike scramble for certainty in making the case for projects, the legal case may eventually wind its way to the Supreme Court.

As the state’s chief state legal officer, the attorney general commonly serves as the most visible and influential state official in the fight against crime. In recent years, multistate efforts by attorneys general have increased their visibility, power, influence and success in enforcement efforts in a number of complex legal areas impacting all areas of public life.

Both a slow economy and tax policies contributed to the recent state fiscal crises. Tax rate increases and one time revenue sources can solve temporary budget deficits, but maintaining the integrity of income and sales tax bases is necessary to prevent structural deficits.  Extending the sales tax to selected services, participating in the Streamlined Sales Tax Project, and requiring corporate combined reporting are among the potential solutions discussed by the authors.

Despite the slow turnaround of the economy, states are still faced with the challenge of maintaining and creating new jobs. Around the country state governments and economic development organizations are relying on proven programs and are challenging themselves to develop new ones in an effort to attract businesses to their areas and encourage expansion among existing local companies.

The U.S. Congress passed landmark legislation in 2002 that was intended to improve the administration of elections in this country. The nation’s chief state election officials are  working now to implement those reforms, despite the fact that much-anticipated federal guidance is late and promised federal funds may never arrive.