State Policy Reports

State Policy Reports is rich with information about the 50 states. Published twice a month (except in August and December when it is published once), each issue covers a variety of topics including trends in state spending, the quarterly index of state economic momentum, federal aid to states and state tax burdens.

July 2014, Volume 32, Issue 14

Caution on State Pension Plans

Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services (S&P) released its 2014 pension survey, which reflects 2012 pension results. The report cites reasons for both optimism and concern.

Minimum Wage: Correlation is Not Causality

States where the minimum wage increased in January have had faster job growth than states where the rate remains unchanged.

Food Fight

Provisions of the school lunch program have come under fire.

July 2014, Volume 32, Issue 13

Areas with Concentrated Poverty

Distinct from measuring the number of people living in poverty, the Census Bureau also reports the number and share of people living in “poverty areas.” Such areas are defined as census tracts with a poverty rate of 20% or more. A recent report, based on 2008-2012 statistics from the American Community Survey (ACS), presents state estimates of both the share of the population living in poverty areas and the share of people in poverty who live in poverty areas.

The Balance Wheel in State Budgets

It has often been observed that higher education serves as a balance wheel in state budgets. Put differently, it is the program that helps keep state budgets in balance.

June 2014, Volume 32, Issue 12

Index of State Economic Momentum

This update gives reason for optimism about the direction and pace of the economic recovery. Particularly encouraging are relatively strong personal income gains in highly populated states and a continuing reduction in both the number of states losing jobs and the magnitude of their losses. While federal policies undoubtedly played a role in the improved personal income numbers (through the ACA Medicaid expansion and Social Security cost-of-living increase), an increase in job creation signals that the personal income numbers should continue to climb in the coming months.

June 2014, Volume 32, Issue 11

A Silver Lining in Weak Tax Collections

The headline of a recent state revenue report hints at a problem: “April ‘Surprises’ More Surprising Than Expected.” The analysis goes on to report that some states are missing their fiscal year (FY) 2014 revenue estimates because personal income tax collections in April were well below most states’ expectations.

On Capital Budgeting

It isn’t the sexiest area of state budgeting—if there is such a thing—but it is one of the most important. In contrast to the federal government, which finances capital improvements in a single, unified budget, states typically budget separately for capital expenditures. The National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO) has just released a compendium of state capital budgeting practices, captured in 42 tables with lots of explanatory notes.

May 2014, Volume 32, Issue 10

Real Personal Income Estimates Shake Things Up

The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) has been doing work that compares the cost of living among states. In late April, BEA released a report that puts its “regional price parity” data to use. Specifically, it adjusts each state’s per capita personal income to account for differences in price levels among the states. The results are interesting, and the impact of applying them to an existing grant program is stunning.

May 2014, Volume 32, Issue 9

The 2014 Camelot Index

The Camelot Index was developed by Reports founding editor Hal Hovey. It is based on the premise that most people share a common set of preferences: fewer taxes are better than more, small class sizes are better than large, low death rates are better than high, less crime is better than more and so on.

Many studies incorporate such preferences, but they often focus on just one area. For example, a study may attempt to identify the “healthiest” state but ignore the fact that health care isn’t delivered in a vacuum; it may be traded off with something else.

The Camelot Index brings together measures of economic vitality, health, education, crime, society and government. In the current Index, many states rank consistently across measures, while others do quite well on some measures but not others. Plains states continue to do well, with four states ranking among the top five.

April 2014, Volume 32, Issue 8

What Census Can’t Tell You (Anymore)

April 2014, Volume 32, Issue 7

Many Minimum Wages

Old But Good News

March 2014, Volume 32, Issue 6

Index of State Economic Momentum

March 2014, Volume 32, Issue 5

High(way) Finance

February 2014, Volume 32, Issue 4

State Government General Expenditures in 2012

February 2014, Volume 32, Issue 3

State Government General Revenues in 2012

January 2014, Volume 32, Issue 1

State and Local Finances in FY 2011

December 2013, Volume 31, Issue 23-24

Index of State Economic Momentum

Is Universal Preschool a Good Deal for States?

November 2013, Volume 31, Issue 22

Continuum of State Fiscal Stress

October 2013, Volume 31, Issue 20

Poverty Redefined

Variations in Property Tax Burdens

October 2013, Volume 31, Issue 19

The End of Welfare as We Knew It

September 2013, Volume 31, Issue 18

Index of State Economic Momentum

September 2013, Volume 31, Issue 17

State K-12 Funding Slow to Rebound

A Picture Worth a Thousand Words

States and Hunger

August 2013, Volume 31, Issue 1516

A Q&A on Municipal Bankruptcy

July 2013, Volume 31, Issue 14

Fiscal Stress Revisited

Moody’s on Pensions

July 2013, Volume 31, Issue 13

States and Immigration Reform

June 2013, Volume 31, Issue 12

Index of State Economic Momentum

June 2013, Volume 31, Issue 11

Continuum of State Fiscal Stress