How much federal highway program transportation funding will SLC member states receive in fiscal year 2012?
In continuation of the critical state transportation finances issue presented in SLC's November 2011 Question of the Month (QoM), the December 2011 QoM presents more current data and actual dollar amounts for Federal-Aid Highway Program obligation limitation distributions to the SLC member states.
(click on headers to sort by column)
|State||Funding Amount||Percentage of National Total|
|SLC Region Total||$14,038,932,788||39.4%|
How did the states fare securing funds from the federal Highway Trust Fund?
Federal funding for highways is provided to the states mostly through a series of grant programs known as the Federal-Aid Highway Program, administered by the U.S. Department of Transportation's (DOT) Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). The program operates on a "user pay" system, wherein users contribute to the Highway Trust Fund through fuel taxes and other fees. The distribution of funding among the states has been a contentious issue. States that receive less than highway users contribute are known as "donor" states and states that receive more than users contribute are known as "donee" states.
The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) in September 2011 released a report assessing the performance of the different states in the distribution of funding. According to this report, every state received more funding for highway programs than they contributed to the Highway Account of the Highway Trust Fund. This was possible because more funding was authorized and apportioned than was collected from the states, and the fund was augmented with about $30 billion in general revenues since fiscal year 2008. Since that year, the Highway Trust Fund has been seriously depleted, requiring authorization of additional funds from general revenues. If the percentage of funds states contributed to the total is compared with the percentage of funds states received (i.e., relative share), then 28 states received a relatively lower share and 22 states received a relatively higher share than they contributed. Thus, depending on the method of calculation, the same state can appear to be either a donor or donee state. The following map displays the SLC member states' rate of return per dollar contributed to the Highway Account of the Highway Trust Fund for fiscal years 2005-2009.
States Efforts to Promote the Motion Picture and Video Game Industries
In June 2007, the SLC issued a report entitled Lights! Camera! Action! Southern State Efforts to Attract Filmmakers' Business. The major objective of the report was to hone in on a trend that was sweeping across the country: states, led by 2002 landmark legislation in Louisiana, working proactively to lure the motion picture and television industries to work within their borders. In addition, the report highlighted why the film industry landscape in the United States had become very competitive, vis-à-vis international locations in Canada and Eastern Europe, in the early to mid-years of the decade and provided details on some of the aggressive new and revised financial and other incentives offered by states to filmmakers.
Since the release of this SLC report, two important developments have surfaced that require attention:
A number of studies contend that state film incentives are not a sound investment of scarce state tax dollars and that states should strongly reevaluate continuing the practice. For instance, in a study released in March 2009, Professor Susan Christopherson, Cornell University, maintained that "most of the three dozen states chasing film production with tax breaks will not catch up with New York and California, where the movie and television industries have been dug in for decades. The subsidies they're giving the productions don't have a long-term economic impact for the state." Another study, prepared by Robert Tannenwald at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities also maintained "[I]n the harsh light of reality, film subsidies offer little bang for the buck."
Student Loan Debt: The Rising Risk to the Recovery
President Obama announced a plan to ease the student loan debt burden for low-income graduates this week in a speech at the University of Colorado's Denver Campus. The president announced a change in the income-based repayment plan, reducing to 10 percent of their discretionary income (from 15 percent), two years ahead of schedule, the cap on graduates' federal student loan repayments. The program also provides a handful of procedures for the forgiveness of loan balances following a history of on-time payments. The proposal also allows some graduates with multiple student federal loans to consolidate them into one, potentially lowering their interest rates. The president's announcement could provide relief to a potential 6 million borrowers. The final component of the announcement is the "Know Before Your Owe" project, which is being developed by the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as a tool to help students and parents compare aid packages across institutions.
While student loan debt has been a slowly simmering issue for the past few years, it has recently picked up steam. As the economy has continued to slog along with very slow growth, colleges are graduating record numbers of certificate and degree-holders who have accumulated record amounts of debt. In much the same way that securities backed by essentially worthless mortgages undermined the economy in 2007, the exploding levels of student loan debt could prove to be another threat to the economy. In accelerating the student loan debt relief, the Obama Administration is hoping to defuse this risk by leaving more money in the pockets of recent graduates and expunging debt that remains after a reasonable amount of time in the workforce has passed.
Rising Student Debt and Delinquencies
State Revenue Trends
States continue to warily recover from the Great Recession, the worst downturn to ravage state budgets in more than eight decades. Even though state revenues have improved from the depths to which they plunged at the height of the downturn, they still are significantly below pre-Great Recession levels. For instance, in fiscal year 2008, the year immediately preceding the Great Recession, total state general fund revenues stood at $680 billion. Not only did they sink to $625 billion in fiscal year 2009, they continued their descent to $606 billion in fiscal year 2010 before crawling back up to $642 billion in fiscal year 2011. In fiscal year 2012, state revenues are expected to climb to $656 billion.
Preliminary tax collection data for the second quarter of 2011 (April through June) by the Rockefeller Institute demonstrates that collections from major state tax sources increased by 11.4 percent in nominal terms compared to the same period in 2010. This was the strongest year-over-year expansion since the second quarter of 2005. Not only did all the reporting states indicate an increase in personal income taxes in the quarter, all but four (Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and North Carolina) noted gains in sales taxes, and only New Hampshire reported a decline in overall collections. This trend is a significant improvement from the last two fiscal years; in fact, over 20 states experienced double-digit growth in overall tax collections in the quarter compared to the same period in 2010.
NCLB Waivers, Part Two
Following the recent announcement of waiver's from the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act, several states immediately indicated their intention to seek relief from the Act. The immediacy of the response by states is indicative of the degree to which the law, now four years past the date when it was supposed to have been renewed, is in need of revision. Congressional inaction on the reauthorization means that, as noted in a previous Ednotes on the Issues, school districts have two years to bring all students to proficiency in math and reading. Given current trends, no district will achieve this target, placing nearly every school district in the country under some form of federally mandated sanction
While states will have multiple opportunities to submit for waivers by the end of the current school year, states wishing to have responses prior to the beginning of the 2012 legislative session must apply by November 14. For states unable to meet the November 14 deadline, but desiring to apply for waivers, the U. S. Department of Education will allow them to hold their accountability targets constant for a year while they assemble their applications. States seeking relief from the Act's provisions, including the 100 percent proficiency target, must adopt specific reforms proposed by the Deparatment. In much the same manner as with the Race to the Top grants, but to an even greater extent, the Department is using the waiver procedure included in the Act to, for all practical purposes, bypass Congressional prerogative in establishing education policy. The president acknowledged that the law needed to be revised, or states would be faced with an untenable situation.
What percentage of children eligible for SCHIP services are covered in SLC states?
Even as states have struggled to meet their Medicaid obligations in recent years due to the downturn in the economy, most have continued to increase the percentage of children covered under the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), the predominantly federally funded program that, since 1997, has helped states provide health insurance to children of families that make too much money to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to afford insurance. More importantly, states have worked to ensure that more eligible children are signed up to receive services by developing and promoting programs providing access to eligibility and enrollment information, particularly in rural areas; lengthening enrollment periods without the need for reauthorization; and other measures. According to a recent study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Gains for Children: Increased Participation in Medicaid and CHIP in 2009, these efforts are working. Nationally, 30 states boosted enrollment of children who are eligible for the program in 2009, the most recent year that data are available, which increased coverage from 80 percent in 2008 to 85 percent in 2009. This increase accounts for an additional 2.5 million children (from 40.2 million in 2008 to 42.7 million in 2009) in all states now covered by the program. It is, in part, attributable to the expansion of Medicaid coverage to individuals with incomes below 138 percent of the federal poverty level, a key component of the Affordable Care Act, as well as the reauthorization of SCHIP (CHIPRA) in 2009, which included grants to develop programs for increasing enrollment. Four SLC states – Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia – reported that at least 90 percent of all eligible children were signed up for the program in 2009, and the SLC average for coverage rose from 83.4 percent to 86 percent during that year.
(click on headers to sort by column)
Prospective Changes in Long-Term Care Policies
According to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), there are approximately 9 million people in the United States who require long-term care, including those in nursing homes and people with disabilities. That number is expected to reach 12 million by 2020.In addition, approximately 40 percent of all people living in the United States who reach the age of 65 will enter a nursing home at some point in their lives, and 10 percent of all those who do so will stay there five years or more, according to CMS.
Funding for these services is of grave concern to states and the federal government, particularly in light of the national financial crisis and the reality that healthcare costs are expected to double by 2020.Generally, Medicare does not pay for long-term care but only for medically necessary services like home healthcare or skilled nursing facilities, which means Medicaid is primarily responsible for covering most long-term care expenditures, including nursing home care for elderly people. Since Medicaid eligibility requirements vary so widely by state, to what extent these services are funded varies as well.
Higher Education Performance and Accountability
The Texas Board of Regents approved a sweeping plan last week to increase accountability for the University of Texas System. The changes are intended to enhance the system's efficiency, improving cost factors while simultaneously increasing the quality of education across all 15 units of the UT System. The framework for implementation features nine focus areas, including undergraduate student access and success; faculty, administrative, and staff excellence; research; and productivity and efficiency. This plan builds upon an existing accountability system and measures to close gaps and increase excellence in the System established by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.
A similar accountability proposal announced last week by Missouri governor Jay Nixon would allocate state funds to institutions of higher education based on meeting performance measures and academic goals, including the number of degrees and certificates conferred. The governor's plan allocates future funding increases using a model based on statewide- and institution-specific goals that accounts for the differences between two- and four-year institutions.
What are the suspension rates for students in public elementary and secondary schools in SLC member states?
(click on headers to sort by column)
|State||Student Population||Total Suspensions||Percentage|
Summer Heat and Fall Sports
Students in many districts across the South are starting school next week or are already in session. An early start to school gives students a jump start on academics, athletics and activities. This year, the start to school has coincided with a scorching heatwave that has covered much of the South and Midwest, with temperatures exceeding 90 degrees for weeks, and humidity keeping nighttime temperatures in the upper 70s or low 80s.
This heat is more than an inconvenience, however. Heat is suspected of being a contributing factor in the deaths of four high school football players this month (including two from Georgia, one from Florida, and a 14-year-old player from South Carolina) and in the death of a Texas football coach. While few in number, these events point to heat-related stress among athletes that can lead to other health complications. A study released last year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cited heat illness during practice or competition as a leading cause of death and disability among U.S. high school athletes, with football responsible for a rate of illness 10 times higher than the average rate.
How much are SLC member states appropriating toward their arts agencies in fiscal year 2012?
(Total Legislative Appropriations Including Line Items)
(click on headers to sort by column)
|State / Region||FY 2011 Enacted||FY 2012 Projected||Percent Change|
|Florida * 2||6,356,661||5,673,420||-10.70%|
|North Carolina *||8,488,087||7,255,593||-14.50%|
|Tennessee * 5||8,105,700||8,291,600||2.30%|
|West Virginia *||2,488,470||2,488,720||0.00%|
What changes have SLC states seen in annual income rates over the past 50 years?
Disposable income, defined by the U.S. Department of Commerce as all money earned by all residents of a state in a given year, minus all income taxes and property taxes, has risen at an annual rate of 7.88 percent in the SLC region, compared to the national rate of 7.14 percent. Within the SLC, Florida experienced the fastest increase (9.02 percent per year), whereas disposable income in West Virginia grew the slowest (6.20 percent per year).
(click on headers to sort by column)
|State||1960||1970||1980||1990||2000||2010||Annual Growth Rate (1960-2010)|
Race to the Top Round 3
The U.S. Department of Education announced at the end of May that it was opening up a new round of Race to the Top grants worth $700 million, with $500 million dedicated to a new Early Learning Challenge Program with the additional funds available to the nine states that were finalists but failed to win in the second round of grantmaking (Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and South Carolina).
South Carolina has declined the offer on the grounds that the funds would come with too many conditions. The eight remaining states will be offered grants to support parts of their original Race to the Top applications. As South Carolina's decision to opt out of the third round of Race to the Top highlights, states are viewing with some skepticism the model being promoted by the Department of Education. For its part, the Department of Education has acknowledged this, noting that the awards for the K-12 part of the program are to "investments" on reforms these states have already made, not rewards or inducements to do new things. Nonetheless, states are leery of assuming the potential increased fiscal obligations of federally encouraged reforms such as enhanced student data systems and teacher performance evaluations and compensation without significantly more funds than the limited grant will afford, as these programs could require continued fiscal support at a time when finances already are tight.
Manufacturing Jobs in the South
As reported by The Business Journals, in the past decade, the number of manufacturing jobs in the United States has seen a decline in every state except Alaska. The Southern region was no exception to this downward trend, shedding a total of 1,745,300 manufacturing jobs between April 2001 and April 2011. As the nation slowly recovers from the Great Recession, SLC member states are seeing a small uptick in the number of manufacturing jobs within their jurisdictions. However, these gains still are relatively miniscule when observing the decline of manufacturing jobs in of the past decade.
In the Southern region, North Carolina saw the greatest decline in manufacturing jobs in the past decade, while West Virginia lost the fewest jobs. Between April 2010 and April 2011, Texas came ahead with the most manufacturing jobs gained, whereas Mississippi continued to see a loss of manufacturing jobs with a decline of 3,400 jobs.
(click on headers to sort by column)
|State||April 2001||April 2010||April 2011||Change in Number of Jobs, 2001-2011||Change in Number of Jobs, 2010-2011|
How much are SLC member states allocating toward higher education?
As states have reeled from the Great Depression, Americans are pursuing post-secondary education at record levels. The importance of higher education to the kinds of jobs most observers maintain will dominate the post-recession economy is relatively clear. States recognize the necessity of a well-trained and ‐educated workforce to their future competitiveness and have generally provided the means for these systems to meet current demands and future needs. Nonetheless, the recession affected state allocations for higher education across the region, reducing state monies for this purpose from a high of nearly $4 billion in FY 2008 to only $3.6 billion in FY 2011. The decline in real terms to state higher education systems was mitigated in large part by stimulus spending, which injected more than $3.8 billion in the region's higher education systems and institutions.
As states pull out of the recession, there are signs of recovery in state support for higher education. Indeed, 11 of the 15 states in the SLC have increased their support for higher education over the past five years by significant amounts, and only three have experienced declines.
(click on headers to sort by column)
|State / Region||FY 2006 State Support b||FY 2007 State Support b||FY 2008 State Support b||FY 2009 State Support b||FY 2010 State Support b||FY 2011 State Support b||Percent Change FY 2006 - FY 2011|
Post-secondary Access and Affordability
Last week's EdNotes featured an article highlighting a peculiarity of the current economic downturn: while the employment impact was relatively democratic in nature the nascent recovery has, for the most part, failed to gain traction for those individuals who lack post-secondary education. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for high school graduates in 2010 was 10.3 percent, for those with some college, but no degree, it was 9.2 percent, while for individuals with a bachelor's degree, unemployment was 5.4 percent (individuals with associate degrees had a 7.0 percent unemployment rate). The employment gap is mirrored by an income gap as well, with high school graduates earning roughly 60 percent of the earnings of an individual with a bachelor's degree (those with some college fare only slightly better at 68 percent).
Looked at through a closer lens, however, the prospects for most college graduates appear to be fading. While they continue to enjoy an employment advantage, a study out this week from Rutgers University indicates that while those individuals who graduated before the Great Recession took hold were mostly able to find work, nearly half of graduates in the class of 2010 had found employment by this spring. Moreover, while 80 percent of all graduates in the classes of 2006 through 2010 are employed, the report found that median starting income for most recent graduates is lower than for those who graduated just before the recession.
This situation exists in part because at least 40 percent of these graduates took jobs that do not require a college degree. Additionally, the economic downturn created an "employment latency" that contributes to a very competitive job market, particularly for recent graduates with limited or no work experience. This situation appears to affect most sectors, including teaching and nursing, two fields that have heretofore been viewed as "recession proof."
Schools and Natural Disasters
A strong band of storms ripped through the South last week, spawning the deadliest tornado outbreak since 1932, with at least 329 people reported dead across seven states, including 238 dead reported in Alabama alone. Among the hardest hit areas of Alabama was Tuscaloosa, home to the more than 30,000 students of the University of Alabama. The storms displaced thousands more and laid waste to homes, businesses, schools and other civic buildings.
While spared a direct hit from the Tornados, the University opted to close weeks ahead of schedule and allow students, many of whom hail from areas also affected by the storm, to return home. Other schools in the state also were affected, including 18 that suffered heavy damage. The Alabama Legislature quickly approved legislation to allow the state superintendent of schools to shorten the school year for districts affected by the storms. The Legislature also approved by voice vote a resolution promising to appropriate whatever funds were needed to repair or rebuild tornado-damaged schools. In Georgia, Governor Nathan Deal ordered a review of the state's severe weather warning system to ensure that the system was fully operational and to determine gaps, if any, in coverage.
Natural Gas Recovery and "Hydrofracking
Increasingly, natural gas has gained popularity as a cleaner substitute for fossil fuels, such as coal and oil, and the process known as hydraulic fracturing, or "hydrofracking," has made shale gas an economically viable alternative to conventional natural gas sources. Shale gas is located much deeper in the ground, typically at least 2,000 feet below the surface, and historically has been much more difficult and expensive to recover. Hydrofracking uses a cocktail of water; sand or ceramic material; and various chemicals that are injected at a high pressure into the shale, in order to fracture the rock and release the gas. A vertical hole is dug, then the drill is turned horizontally to continue the well from the vertical bore. Piping encased in cement feeds the mixture of 99 percent water and sand or ceramic, and 1 percent chemicals, into the shale. The sand holds the fracture open so that the gas can seep into the well, and the chemicals work as thickeners and lubricants, allowing the fluid to work its way through the fissures.
The United States' geologic composition contains large amounts of natural gas, perhaps third in the world behind only Russia and the Middle East, and many SLC states, including Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, have huge reserves of the fuel. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), although natural gas consumption is rising in the United States, imports have been steadily declining over the last few years. The report points out that, from 2007 to 2010, imports declined by approximately 1.2 trillion cubic feet, or one-third. This is due largely to the rise in domestic production from shale gas formations, which has more than tripled during that same period, resulting in lower natural gas prices, as well as new jobs in the industry. These trends are at least partly attributable to the increased development and use of hydrofracking.
A Prescription Drug Epidemic
A study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that treatment admission for prescription pain pill abuse has quadrupled nationally in the past decade, and that this increase spans every age, gender, race, ethnicity, education, employment level and region of the country. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that about 20 percent of people in the United States, or 48 million, have used prescription drugs for nonmedical reasons. Even more alarming, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, overdoses from prescription drugs in the United States doubled from 1999 to 2007, and each year more than 20,000 people die from overdoses, far more people than are killed by controlled substances like cocaine and heroin. In addition, the South has one of the highest rates of overdose related to prescription drug abuse and misuse.
National Drug Control Policy Director Gil Kerlikowske has called prescription drug abuse the nation's "fastest-growing drug problem," and last month he revealed a new strategy by the White House to reduce misuse of such drugs by 15 percent in five years through a nationwide education campaign; training for clinical practitioners; and establishing prescription drug monitoring programs in all 50 states (currently, only 35 states are operating such programs). In addition, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is asking makers of pain medications to assist in supplying materials that physicians can use while counseling patients on the risks and benefits of using prescription pain medications.
How much do state employees in the SLC pay toward their health insurance premiums?
State employee health insurance coverage policies vary widely in the SLC region. Therefore, a direct comparison of practices is unreliable. In order to accommodate for the discrepancies, the SLC collected state employee premium information for its 15 member states on a case-by-case basis. This information is available on the following table.
|Alabama||Link||State Employee's Insurance Board|
|Arkansas||Link||Employee Benefits Division, Department of Finance & Administration|
|Florida||Link||Department of Management Services|
|Georgia||Link||Department of Community Health|
|Louisiana||Link||Office of Group Benefits, Division of Administration, Office of the Governor|
|Mississippi||Link||Department of Finance & Administration|
|Missouri||Link||Missouri Consolidated Health Care Plan|
|North Carolina||Link||State Health Plan|
State Corrections Reforms
For a number of years, state prison populations have been growing at alarming rates and, correspondingly, so have state corrections budgets. A recent report by the Pew Center on the States estimates that state corrections spending has quadrupled nationwide over the past 20 years, making it the second fastest growing budget item for states, behind Medicaid. In addition, the report noted that approximately 40 percent of released inmates return to prison within three years of release. According to the 2010 Southern Legislative Conference (SLC) Adult Correctional Systems Comparative Data Report, between 2000 and 2010, the number of inmates in the region, including those based in county and local jails, increased from 537,135 to 632,651, a 17.8 percent increase. During that time, some SLC states, such as West Virginia, saw as high as 67 percent increases. In addition, according to an assessment done by the state Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety, the entire West Virginia prison population is expected to increase by another 45 percent by 2020, making it the fastest growing prison population in the country. The state has made some progress in addressing violent offenses, such as driving under the influence (DUI), through legislation in 2008 (SB535) to reduce driver's license suspension times from 30 to 15 days for first time DUI offenders, but requiring those drivers to install an ignition interlock, a device that prevents the vehicle from starting if alcohol is detected when the driver breathes into it. The legislation also removed the mandatory 24-hour lockup law for offenders with lower blood alcohol contents (BAC) and created harsher penalties for drivers with extremely high BAC. This, along with other measures, has almost cut the percentage of inmates sentenced for DUI convictions by one-half in a few years.
Nuclear Safety in a Post-Fukushima World
In light of the recent disaster at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in northern Japan, the conversation regarding the immediate future of nuclear power in the United States and the world is at the forefront of recent energy discussions. In addition to ongoing concerns regarding the lack of any long-term, permanent storage for spent nuclear fuel, more scrutiny from all sectors regarding safety is now being focused on reactors and plants. Germany has shut down all reactors built before 1980. Singapore and Switzerland have halted approval for future plants. China, perhaps the world's most ambitious nuclear energy producer, recently announced that it will suspend nuclear power plant development until a comprehensive review of its current plants and those under construction can be carried out. Ban Ki-moon, the current Secretary-General of the United Nations, recently called on world governments to strengthen nuclear safety standards, including protections against terrorist attacks.
Changes in Teaching as a Profession
There have been signs that the teacher supply system has been broken for years. Every year, schools of education produce thousands of graduates who enter the profession only to leave it after only a few years. Teacher turnover created such significant shortages that states have embraced alternative paths to teacher certification as a means to fill shortage areas and support schools struggling to fill teaching positions.
The recent economic downturn has changed this dynamic at a critical moment in the teaching profession. Alternative pathways for teachers are maturing into a viable alternative to traditional schools of education. Teach for America, the largest and most visible of these alternative programs, had more than 8,000 teachers in the field in the 2010-2011 school year. Across the country, alternative programs have been seen as a complement to traditional programs to prepare teachers for hard-to-find specialties (science, technology and math, in particular) and hard-to-staff schools.
This year, however, teachers are facing a very tough job market. This is not a surprise. Teaching is highly responsive to ups and downs in the economy, and its reputation as a "safe" profession with health and pension benefits attracted a number of individuals during the last recession. In the economic upswings that followed the two most recent recessions, teaching shortages returned shortly after the economy improved, due to increased attrition of in-service teachers and diminished intake of new teacher candidates as college students chose other professions over teaching.
School Choice and Charter Schools
School choice has been at the center of the discussion of education reform across the region for several years. Charter schools received a prominent boost from the Obama administration during the Race to the Top process, where the selection scoring criteria afforded more potential points for support for charter schools than any other single category with the exception of securing local support. This policy preference effectively shut out the 10 states without charter laws (including Alabama, Kentucky and West Virginia) from the $4.35 billion fund.
What are the sunset regulations, if any, in the SLC member states?
With legislatively mandated review of 77 states entities on a four-year rotating schedule, Alabama is one of the Southern states with the most thorough sunset review process.
In 1977, Arkansas adopted a sunset law to control and manage the proliferation of state boards and commissions. In 1983, led by then Governor Clinton and backed by both houses of the General Assembly, the state allowed its sunset law on boards and commissions to elapse.
The 2006 Legislature enacted the Florida Government Accountability Act that established an agency sunset review process to be used by the Legislature to determine if a public need exists for the continuation of a state agency, its advisory committees, or its programs.
The Florida Government Accountability Act provided for the creation of the Joint Sunset Committee to oversee the independent review process and make recommendations to abolish, continue, or reorganize the agency under review. The act also provides that the Senate and House may conduct independent reviews regarding the scheduled agency sunsets.
The Florida Government Accountability Act requires reports and assistance from state agencies and the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (OPPAGA), creates a schedule to abolish state agencies and advisory committees, and sets criteria to be used in the sunset review process.
A reviewed agency may not be abolished unless all of the services for which the agency had responsibility have been repealed, revised, or reassigned; and adequate provisions have been made for all duties and obligations relating to debt.
The Joint Legislative Sunset Committee was not funded in the FY 2010-11 General Appropriations Act, and the Committee ceased operations on June 30, 2010.
School Budgets Feeling the Pinch
It should not be a surprise that education budgets are feeling the pinch this year. As the economy continues its slow climb out of the Great Recession, state budgets are showing incremental signs of recovery. But for education, states are facing the end of federal stimulus money that pumped about $100 million into schools, mostly to avert teacher layoffs. While the federal government asked states to spend the recovery money in ways that did not create a gaping hole when the funds ran out (states are required to commit all recovery funds by the end of fiscal 2011), a 2010 study from Teachers College of Columbia University noted that most states spent 70 percent of their fiscal stimulus funds in fiscal 2010. As state and local revenues for education continue to lag, a number of states are facing a precipitous funding "cliff." State legislatures in general work very hard to avoid cutting K-12 education funds, but as the recession has dragged on and reserves begin to be depleted, education budgets are feeling the pinch.
In Alabama, where education is funded through a separate account generated largely through sales tax, the governor announced proration for school funding in the current fiscal year to cover a $165 million projected shortfall in collections. The action reduces funding to schools from the state, and sets up a budget debate in the Legislature over school funds for the coming fiscal year that will reflect diminished funds. The Senate Finance and Taxation-Education Committee this week approved a House bill to limit the growth of spending from the Education Trust Fund, putting surpluses into a reserve account that would then be available when the Fund is unable to meet required outlays, diminishing the potential for future prorations.
Changes to HOPE Scholarships
When Georgia created the HOPE scholarship Program (Helping Outstanding Pupils Educationally) in 1993, the goal was to curtail the flow of the state's best and brightest high school graduates to out-of-state colleges, and to provide the means for every academically outstanding high school graduation an opportunity to pursue higher education. The lottery-funded program provides a full scholarship to cover tuition, approved fees and up to $300 of books a year for students who graduate high school with a B grade average or higher. To remain eligible, students need to maintain a B average in college.
The program has been highly successful in encouraging Georgia high school students to remain in state and is largely credited with increasing the standards and quality of the state's top-tier universities. HOPE is also credited with improved performance for students at Georgia's colleges. At least a dozen other states have followed Georgia's lead, creating similar merit scholarships for students who remain in state for college.
Because the HOPE Scholarship Program is funded by a state-sponsored lottery, it operates at no cost to the state treasury and has in fact built up a large cash reserve, as lottery proceeds have exceeded scholarship awards. Lottery proceeds have leveled off in recent years, however, and college costs as well as college participation rates have climbed, resulting in a fiscal crunch for the program. According to the Georgia Student Finance Commission, the program has awarded 263,603 scholarships valued at $649.3 million dollars for the current fiscal year. Given current trends, the program now gives out more money than it takes in, and is projecting a $244 million shortfall for this fiscal year, and $314 million for next year.
Fixing this is a priority for Gerogia governor Nathan Deal and the Georgia General Assembly. A number of proposals have been investigated, including:
How are state sales tax collections and GSP comparing across the CSG regions?
Notes: All figures are in million of dollars; GSP figures are in current dollars
Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis, U.S. Department of Commerce; State Government Tax Collections (STC) reports, U.S. Census Bureau
For full data, please click here.
Which SLC States Employ GPS Monitoring for Domestic Violence Offenders?
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, every year approximately 3.4 million people in the United States become victims of stalking.1 Oftentimes, these instances result in physical harm or even death of the victim. In fact, in approximately 43 percent of all cases, stalkers made one or more threats against the victim, and 21 percent of all stalking cases resulted in physical attacks against the victim.2 According to the American Institute on Domestic Violence, health related costs of domestic violence victims exceed $5.8 billion every year in the United States.3 In addition, other reports indicate that domestic violence has been dramatically increasing in many states in recent years. As a result, 20 states throughout the U.S. have turned to the use of Global Positioning Systems (GPS) as a condition of probation for convicted domestic violence offenders. In the Southern Legislative Conference, both Kentucky (2010) and Texas (2009) have passed legislation to establish such programs, and many other states, such as Florida and Tennessee, have counties and municipalities that employ these practices. In addition, states like Mississippi have bills in the current legislative session to require GPS monitoring in domestic violence cases. Opponents of such measures cite cost as an obstacle to implementation, but states like Massachusetts require offenders to pay the approximate $8 per day for monitoring, offsetting the additional costs to the department of corrections. In addition to saving lives, proponents of GPS monitoring for domestic violence offenders argue that it assists in establishing boundaries for offenders; allows for immediate notification to victims and law enforcement personnel when violations occur; and can serve as evidence in criminal investigations. Additionally, since victims are often attacked in their own homes, homes of family, job sites, or other places that would normally be deemed safe, GPS monitoring provides an additional measure of safety for victims that would otherwise not exist.
How are SLC member state budgets faring compared to other CSG regions?
|State||FY12 Projected Shortfall||Shortfall as Percent of FY11 Budget|
|U.S. Total||$112.7 billion||18.9%|
|Eastern CSG Region|
|New Jersey||$10.5 billion||37.4%|
|New York||$9.0 billion||16.9%|
|Rhode Island||$290 million||9.9%|
|Regional Total||$30.0 billion |
(27% of U.S. Total)
|Midwestern CSG Region|