Two years after the nation fell into the longest recession since the 1930s, states still are groping to find the bottom of this grueling fiscal crisis amid double-digit unemployment, historic revenue drops and predictions of at least a couple more years of eye-popping budget deficits.
But equally critical at the troubled start of this decade is a need to pay attention to the choices lawmakers and voters are about to make that will affect states’ fiscal well-being in the long term.
In State of the States 2010, the Pew Center on the States takes a nonpartisan, analytical look at forces already at work with the potential to reshape state government in lasting ways. Addressing “How the recession might change states,” the publication raises intriguing questions that have yet to play out.
Will budget constraints lead to permanent downsizing of government and lasting changes in how states deliver services and who pays for them?
Do some states have such dire budget problems that it is time to re-examine how states split the tab with the federal government for expensive joint responsibilities, such as health care?
Will incumbents in the 2010 elections—when 37 governors’ offices and legislative seats in 46 states are on the ballot—pay a price at the polls for their tough choices to balance state budgets?
What are the states to watch that could be leading indicators of trends in both politics nd critical policy areas?
State of the States 2010 also offers an array of graphics on the recession’s effects on states and a breakdown of federal stimulus dollars. A two-page 2010 Elections Guide features a 50-state rundown of key offices on the ballot, plus information on voting registration, laws and deadlines. And a handy pullout poster will help you keep track of the stakes in gubernatorial and legislative races.
A core focus of the Pew Center on the States is states’ fiscal health, which we track and assess with a goal of identifying strategies and innovative approaches that are proven to yield improvements. Our Stateline.org team of seasoned reporters and editors monitors budget, policy and political developments across the 50 states and was key to this publication, which built on a series of annual reports Stateline.org began 11 years ago. Our researchers generate in-depth reports that compare and contrast how states are handling key issues, including budgets, pensions and state management. And our policy campaigns seek to help states advance reforms that will deliver the strongest return on taxpayers’ investment. This report includes profiles of all of our work.
The new decade will demand new thinking, a long-term perspective and political will from policy makers who are stewarding states through the worst recession in our lifetime and the long recovery to follow. We are just at the outset of determining the shape of state government to come.
Managing Director, Pew Center on the States