Posted on October 29, 2014 in Transportation
Over a dozen states, including five states (Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, Texas and Virginia) belonging to the Southern Office of The Council of State Governments (CSG), the Southern Legislative Conference (SLC), have recently banned the use of the ET-Plus rail head, the flat piece of steel at the front of a guardrail that is meant to glide along the rail on impact and push the railing safely out of the way from a vehicle. Transportation experts have concluded that the rail heads could possibly contain a dangerous defect that could lead them to jam, causing guardrails to pierce vehicles.
For additional details on state actions related to these suspect guardrails, please see the following:
Posted on October 6, 2014 in Economic Development
Public and private sector officials alike realize that comprehensively training America’s workers for available positions in a number of emerging fields remains a critical ingredient in advancing our economy at the state, regional and national levels. In an effort to recruit and train workers to staff the sophisticated 21st century manufacturing jobs in many parts of the country, states are actively providing workforce training programs to their residents. The economic development agencies in a number of states belonging to the Southern Legislative Conference (SLC), the Southern office of The Council of State Governments, place a great deal of emphasis on these training support programs and work closely with their community college system and their corporate partners to ensure that students receive the most up-to-date and wide-ranging training to staff these demanding positions. The SLC has been closely tracking the issue of state efforts to advance workforce development for several years in multiple ways: publications, Webinars and presentations.1
In a significant boost to these state efforts, in late September 2014, the federal government announced the awarding of $450 million in job-driven training grants that would be disbursed to nearly 270 community colleges across the country, a process that will be co-administered by the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Department of Education.2 The grants are designed to provide community colleges and other eligible institutions of higher education with funds to partner with employers to expand and improve their ability to deliver education and career training programs that will help job seekers get the skills they need for in-demand jobs in industries like information technology, healthcare, energy, and advanced manufacturing.
An important component of these federal grants is the ability of the community and technical colleges to partner with private sector entities in crafting training programs that directly relate to the needs of the private sector. As indicated in a number of previous SLC publications, the SLC states have been extremely proactive on this front and have collaborated effectively with different private companies to facilitate this process. For instance, North Carolina’s collaboration between the private sector and community college system in fostering worker training has a long history of national recognition. Specifically, Central Piedmont Community College (CPCC) and Siemens Energy, both located in Charlotte, have a highly effective partnership building and developing a talent pipeline to address Siemens’ workforce needs with suitably trained workers.3 In a development that affirms this partnership, a review of the September 2014 federal grant distributions indicates that CPCC was the recipient of a $2.5 million award. Table 1 provides details on the federal workforce development grants provided to the community colleges and technical colleges in the SLC states.
|AL||Birmingham||Lawson State Community College||$10,000,000.00|
|AR||West Memphis||Mid-South Community College||$9,814,818.00|
|FL||Miami||Miami Dade College Kendall Campus||$9,977,296.00|
|GA||Thomasville||Southwest Georgia Technical College||$2,322,718.00|
|KY||Hazard||Hazard Community and Technical College||$10,000,000.00|
|LA||Bossier City||Bossier Parish Community College||$2,499,325.00|
|LA||New Orleans||Delgado Community College||$2,498,457.00|
|MO||Kansas City||Metropolitan Community College||$19,724,404.00|
|MS||Decatur||East Central Community College||$2,499,950.00|
|NC||Charlotte||Central Piedmont Community College||$2,499,378.00|
|OK||Oklahoma City||Oklahoma City Community College||$2,497,340.00|
|SC||Graniteville||Aiken Technical College||$2,455,839.00|
|TN||Memphis||Southwest Tennessee Community College||$2,387,247.00|
|TX||Waco||Texas State Technical College - Waco||$2,378,924.00|
|VA||Danville||Danville Community College||$2,500,000.00|
|VA||Middletown||Lord Fairfax Community College||$3,250,000.00|
|VA||Cedar Bluff||Southwest Virginia Community College||$2,500,000.00|
|VA||Hampton||Thomas Nelson Community College||$2,476,840.00|
|VA||Petersburg||Virginia State University||$3,249,817.00|
|WV||Huntington||Mountwest Community & Technical College||$9,461,288.00|
Source: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/09/29/fact-sheet-vice-president-biden-announces-recipients-450-million-job-dri (accessed October 1, 2014)
There were 23 institutions located in the SLC states that received grants from the federal government to promote workforce development. Several of these institutions received some of the largest disbursements, including Mid-South Community College in West Memphis, Arkansas ($9.8 million); Miami-Dade College (Kendall Campus) in Miami, Florida ($10 million); Lawson State Community College in Birmingham, Alabama ($10 million); Hazard Community and Technical College in Hazard, Kentucky ($10 million); and Metropolitan Community College in Kansas City, Missouri, the second highest grant awarded ($19.7 million).
In highlighting the expertise of the different institutions, the federal grant distribution news release noted the following with regard to institutions in the SLC states:
Experts rank an adequate supply of skilled workers positioned to tackle the challenges of the complex 21st century manufacturing arena a critical ingredient in promoting a successful state economic development strategy, particularly in setting up manufacturing facilities. A number of studies in recent years have documented the serious skills shortage in the contemporary American manufacturing sector, a development that could impede the resurgent manufacturing sector in the United States. These reports maintain that, unless policymakers rapidly enact aggressive policies to train and retrain a new generation of manufacturing workers, America’s economic prowess in the 21st century will be seriously jeopardized. In response, a number of states across the country, particularly in the SLC region, have been extremely proactive in meeting the needs of the diverse manufacturing companies locating and expanding in their states by providing a range of workforce development opportunities after effectively partnering with community and technical colleges.
Manufacturing companies locating in the SLC states, particularly the automotive and aeronautics companies, often cite the ability of SLC states to provide an appropriately trained labor pool as an important consideration in their location decisions. Toward further reinforcing this goal, the decision of the federal government to award $450 million in grants to community and technical colleges across the country remains an important step in the direction of ensuring that the United States produces a cadre of competent, highly-trained manufacturing workers. The collaborative role, involving state policymakers and private companies in designing the training programs at the technical and community colleges, is another hallmark of a strategy that is increasingly gaining traction in the states.
1 For additional and details on SLC publications on the topic, please see http://www.slcatlanta.org/Publications/EconDev/workdev_web.pdf, http://www.slcatlanta.org/Publications/EconDev/TireManufacturingSouth.pdf and http://www.slcatlanta.org/Publications/EconDev/SouthernAerospace.pdf.
3 For additional details on this CPCC/Siemens partnership, see http://www.slcatlanta.org/Publications/EconDev/workdev_web.pdf, page 16.
4 Stackable certificates allow a student to quickly achieve an industry certification at a community college that leads directly to employment. Typically, these programs are geared toward adult learners, with schedules more open to individuals with jobs and families.
5 Founded in 1995 as a neighborhood-based effort to increase access to personal computers, Per Scholas was an early pioneer in bridging the digital divide for families and children in the South Bronx, in New York City. Per Scholas now operates the largest and oldest professional IT workforce development program in New York City, a series of free, multi-week professional IT job training courses and career development and placement services. The organization also has embarked on a national expansion with new locations in Columbus and Cincinnati, Ohio, and Washington, D.C.
6 Founded in 1983, Jobs for the Future began as a regional nonprofit working with a few states to assess their workforce needs, helping employers find skilled workers, and assisting workers move into higher-wage jobs. Today, Jobs for the Future works to expand the college, career, and life prospects of low-income youth and adults in 25 states.
Posted on October 6, 2014 in Transportation
On September 10, 2014, Sujit CanagaRetna, Fiscal Policy Manager at the SLC was invited to testify before the Louisiana Transportation Task Force. After his testimony, members of the Task Force requested that he provide information to the following questions:
Question 1: Additional details on Louisiana’s Interstate and Highway Lane Miles as presented in the Louisiana page of the 2014 SLC Comparative Data Report on Transportation (Quick Facts ‐ Chapter 2).
Response: As mentioned during the testimony, the SLC’s Comparative Data Reports are prepared annually by legislative staff in four different SLC states. The Transportation report is prepared by staff with the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission. When contacted, the staffer that prepares the report and he indicated that the information on the lane miles was obtained from the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Highway Statistics Series, 2012, table HM 60:
The 129,759 in total highway lane miles listed for Louisiana in the SLC Comparative Data Report matches the number contained in the FHWA source document. The FHWA link to this report for all 50 states is included above. The Kentucky staffer added that since the information in this table covers lane miles, a 100 mile stretch of a four-lane highway would count as 400 miles.
Question 2: Additional details on a point made during the testimony that most states were highly dependent on the federal aid program for their highway and bridge construction projects. It was noted that the average state secures 52 percent of its highway and bridge capital outlays from the federal government. In addition, there are wide variations in this category with a state like Rhode Island relying on the federal government for more than 100 percent of its outlays and New Jersey relying on the federal government for a mere 35 percent of its outlays. Information where Louisiana and other SLC states stood with regard to this statistic is presented below.
Response: The information presented during the testimony was based on a report prepared by the American Road and Transportation Builders in 2013. It was also used in testimony before the U.S. Senate in September 2013 and the link to the information may be viewed here:
Page 5 of the report indicates that the federal reimbursement as a percent of total state capital outlays (includes construction costs, preliminary engineering and right of way expenditures) for Louisiana amounted to 47.5 percent. As a point of comparison, the amounts for the remaining 14 SLC states are presented below:
|SLC State||Federal reimbursement as a Percent of Total Capital Outlays|
|SLC State Average||58.2%|
As indicated, South Carolina is the state with the most reliance on federal funds (79.3 percent) with Florida being the least reliant (38.6 percent). The SLC state average was 58.2 percent, higher than the U.S. average of 51.6 percent.
Question 3: One of the points made in the testimony related to the erosion ‐ due to inflation ‐ of the value of the federal gas tax. Since it was last raised to 18.4 cents in 1993, by 2013, the federal gas tax had lost 38 percent of its purchasing power; it is estimated that by 2024, it would have lost 52 percent of its purchasing power. Task force member inquired whether there was comparable information for the erosion in the state gasoline taxes.
Response: There is information on this query in a report (December 2011) prepared by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP), a non-profit, non-partisan research organization, based in Washington, D.C., that focuses on federal and state tax policy. The following link provides on the topic for all 50 states: http://www.itep.org/bettergastax/bettergastax.pdf.
The table below (from page 13) pulls the information for the SLC states:
|SLC State||Years Since Last State Gas Tax Increase (as of December 2011)||Percent Change in Cost-Adjusted Tax Rate Since Last Increase|
|SLC State Average||13.5||-26.1%|
As indicated above, the U.S. average stood at 10.7 years and -20 percent while the SLC average was slightly higher: 13.5 years and -26.1 percent. According to this report, the percent change in cost-adjusted tax rates since the last increase in Louisiana was -42 percent; a number of SLC states saw their rates in between -40 percent and -45 percent.
Question 4: What percent of SLC state transportation budgets are allocated towards administration?
Response: The following narratives describe the outlay of administrative costs to total expenditures for each state transportation department, but the costs and percentages cannot be compared directly across states. This is an important point to make because there are a range of definitional differences in terms of the various expenditure categories. For instance, some state transportation departments list the components of overhead or general administration expenditures, but others do not. In addition, how each state defines these components may vary. For example, states may have different practices for contracting, and whether contractors are included as personnel or as a part of project costs. These variations are important to keep in mind to ensure that it is not possible to make a clean comparison across the states in terms of their administrative costs. The SLC compiled this information by reviewing the financial information in the individual state transportation department budgets.
Posted on October 1, 2014 in Education
As the evidence builds for the benefits of early childhood education, states are struggling to expand opportunities for 4-year-olds to participate in high quality programs. Program design, participation, and funding remain areas of consideration and concern for state policymakers. Further, the development of appropriate educational standards remains a top priority for Southern lawmakers.
(click on headers to sort by column)
|State and/or Program||Comprehensive early learning standards||Teacher has BA||Specialized training in pre-K||Assistant teacher has CDA or equivalent||At least 15 hrs/yr in-service||Class size 20 or lower||Staff- child ratio 1:10 or bett||Vision, hearing, health, and one support service||At least one meal||Site visits|
|South Carolina 4K||‐||‐||‐||‐||‐||‐|
|South Carolina CDEPP||‐||‐||‐||‐||‐||‐||‐|
Source: Barnett, W.S., Carolan, M.E., Squires, J.H., Clarke Brown, K. (2013). The state of preschool 2013: State preschool yearbook. New Brunswick, NJ: National Institute for Early Education Research.