Laura Tomaka

Author Articles

CSG Midwest
One policy consequence of the Great Recession was a rise across the country in the use of these waivers, which lift limits on the amount of time that able-bodied adults without dependents can receive payments under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. If a state does not seek and receive such a federal waiver, its able-bodied recipients can receive food stamps for only three months over any three-year period.
The federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 temporarily suspended these time limits across the country, thus simplifying the process for states to secure a waiver. More recently, though, with jobless rates falling in many parts of the country, federal policy has reverted to pre-recession rules under the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act.
CSG Midwest

In recent years, state government has taken a more active role in helping provide citizens with greater access to reliable broadband Internet. By using funding or incentives to encourage providers to expand broadband into underserved areas, policymakers hope to address equity issues involving access, as well as the role that access plays in terms of improved education, economic development and even public safety....

CSG Midwest
A state-federal partnership that helps small- and medium-sized businesses in the Midwest reach global markets has been reauthorized through 2020. The State Trade and Export Program, or STEP, was included in legislation signed into law in February. It provides states with matching funds to help more small businesses export their goods and services.
The Council of State Governments, through the work of the State International Development Organizations, helped federal lawmakers and trade agencies develop the reauthorization language. (SIDO is a CSG affiliate.)

CSG Midwest

In the final weeks of this year’s legislative session, Minnesota Rep. Bob Barrett worked successfully to secure $100,000 in state funds for a city in his home district. The money, which came from an existing economic development program, aims to help the city lower taxes and be more competitive within the state, as well as with neighboring Wisconsin. But as Barrett’s appropriations request made its way to final passage, he had to answer questions from colleagues. What will prevent you, the Minnesota Senate chair asked Barrett during conference committee, from coming back next year and requesting even more money? “If this money doesn’t do what it’s intended to do, then I won’t be coming back,” Barrett told fellow legislators. “But if it works, and we [create] new jobs, new businesses, new property taxes in my area, that would be telling you that it was money well spent, and I will be coming back and asking for more.”

CSG Midwest
Every state uses tax and financial incentives to attract, retain and expand businesses. The benefits are the jobs and economic activity that these firms bring to a state, but what are the costs? In 2012, New York Times investigation put the price tag for states and local governments at more than $80 billion, but to a large degree, policymakers have been establishing and continuing these incentive programs without a firm handle on the costs.
That may begin to change in 2017, when a new rule of the Governmental Accounting Standards Board takes effect. It will require state and local governments to report how much revenue they are losing or willingly not collecting as the result of their tax-abatement agreements with businesses.
CSG Midwest
In most states, it doesn’t take long for a bill passed by the legislature to be acted on by the governor. The governors of Iowa, Minnesota and North Dakota have only three days to veto a measure once they’ve received it, and in most other state constitutions, the time frame for gubernatorial action is between five and 10 days.
But in Illinois, weeks can, and often do, go by between legislative passage and the governor’s signing or veto of legislation.
“There is lobbying that goes on with the governor’s office for sure,” Rep. Elaine Nekritz says of the waiting period. “The three governors I have served with have taken their time in evaluating and signing the bills. I believe all three took full advantage of the 60-day time frame.”
No state comes close to the 60-day window allotted to Illinois’ governors, but this unique constitutional provision is consistent with the “extraordinary veto power” granted to the executive branch, says former Illinois state senator Rick Winkel.
CSG Midwest
With $84 million set aside in the new state biennial budget as incentive, Indiana is challenging its cities to work more closely together on projects that make their part of the state a more attractive place to live and work. In emphasizing collaboration over competition, the Regional Cities Initiative marks a new approach to economic development in Indiana. But as Rep. Ed Clere notes, it seeks to address an old problem. “The biggest economic issue we’re trying to address is attracting talent by improving quality of place,” he says. “Population stagnation has been identified as a significant threat to Indiana’s economic growth.”
CSG Midwest
Ask employers what their biggest challenges are, and one of the first responses will often be the difficulty in filling jobs with qualified workers. Ask policymakers what the biggest challenges facing their state’s economy are, and it won’t be long before they mention the need to build a trained workforce — one that can fill good-paying jobs and enable individual economic mobility.
 
This policy challenge is particularly acute in regard to middle-skill jobs — those requiring more than a high school diploma, such as an associate’s degree, certificate or other postsecondary credential, but not necessarily a bachelor’s degree. Last year, in fact, none of the 10 fastest-growing occupations required bachelor’s degrees, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Workers could instead qualify for these jobs through such means as skills certificates, on-the-job training or apprenticeships.
 
In an effort to match state policy with these labor-market realities, new legislation is being introduced and innovative programs are being implemented across the Midwest that target middle-skill jobs and workers.
 
 
 
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Through a mix of legislation and actions taken by governors, new initiatives are being launched in states across the Midwest to remove workforce barriers and to help get more disabled individuals into the workforce.

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In just a few short years, the presence of ride-sharing companies such as Uber, Lyft and Sidecar has spread to more than 60 metropolitan areas across the country — 15 of which are in the Midwest. With a simple tap of a button on a smartphone application, a passenger can connect with a driver. The driver, using his or her personal vehicle, then provides a ride to a desired location, oftentimes at much cheaper prices than a traditional taxi or car service.
 
Should these ride-sharing companies fall under the same licensing and insurance regulations as taxi and limousine services? Should they fall under a new type of classification of service, or not be regulated at all? These are some of the questions that states and municipalities have begun to address with the rise in ride-sharing.

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