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Jan. 29, 2011


Policymakers Face Big Challenges in 2011

CSG Releases 6 Categories, Top 5 Issues for this session
LEXINGTON, Ky.—It doesn’t take psychic powers to predict that policymakers across the country will be facing one of the toughest sessions in decades as they come to grips with massive budget gaps caused by the Great Recession. The Council of State Governments’ policy staff has created lists of the top issues they expect to be challenges this year and how each of them could affect states, ranging from health care and education to transportation and fiscal issues.
Probably the biggest issue facing almost all states is gaping budget holes caused by a slow economic recovery in the states. The federal Recovery Act helped ease some of the pain caused by the Great Recession, infusing states with $224 billion for education, health care and programs like unemployment benefits. Now, that money is all but spent and Congress is unlikely to approve any additional stimulus money.
Another significant issue facing the states is the funding cliff in Medicaid programs. The federal government provided enhanced matching funds as Medicaid rolls swelled, but that funding ends after June. Medicaid enrollments remain high and states also need to begin planning for the 2014 expansion of Medicaid eligibility required under federal health reform.
And with tax collection levels still low, transportation issues are becoming more difficult to tackle. With 45 percent of the nation’s roads in less than good condition and 12 percent of bridges deemed structurally deficient, states need to invest large amounts of money into road projects just as the source of those revenues is drying up. Gas taxes have traditionally been the source of road funding, but people are driving less or driving more fuel-efficient vehicles. Some states and the federal government are considering gas tax increases this year.
The Council of State Governments can not only help legislators understand the issues, but also provide reliable information about new and innovative ways states are dealing with these challenges.
To learn more about the Top 5 issues in each policy area, visit here. For more information about these or any other topics, visit CSG’s Knowledge Center.



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