This booklet explores solutions to the top public policy issues facing the states in 2018 and beyond in the areas of budget and tax, education, energy and environment, health care, and constitutional reform. The solutions we have identified are proven reform ideas gaining momentum among the states and with legislators.
Budget and Tax Solutions. Michigan and Pennsylvania have addressed pension reform in a sustainable way, at a time when most state pension systems across the country are diverting money away from essential government services and creating pressure for tax increases. Arizona, Kansas, and Missouri, among other states, have implemented welfare reforms that aim to move people from government dependency to self-sufficiency. Wisconsin has passed REINS legislation that forces state agencies to request approval from the legislature for any regulation that imposes $10 million or more in costs.
Education Reform Solutions. Students in the United States perform poorly compared to their counterparts in other countries, even though per-pupil spending in America is far higher. Many states have responded by expanding education choice to allow parents and students to have greater access to private schools and other educational options through education savings accounts (ESAs), school vouchers, and tax-credit scholarships. Arizona’s recently expanded ESA program, for example, might serve as a model for other states. In addition, states such as Kentucky, Michigan, and Pennsylvania are looking at ways to guide students into career technical education as an alternative to the traditional college path.
Energy and Environment Solutions. Our understanding of the science and economics of environmental issues has improved in recent years, but public policy has not kept up. The concern humans are responsible for climate change and that the warming of Earth will be catastrophic has diminished, but states and national regulatory bodies continue to assume the worse and enforce “zombie regulations” intended to force a transition away from affordable and reliable fossil fuels. New technologies have made the United States a world energy superpower, but many policies being enforced today were adopted in an era when we feared we would “run out of energy” or be too dependent on imports. Kansas, Ohio, and West Virginia have taken steps to roll back their renewable energy portfolio mandates. North Dakota and Oklahoma have shown how states can support sound environmental stewardship while also being pro-energy and pro-jobs.
Health Care Solutions. North Carolina and Virginia, among other states, are considering reforms to their certificate of need laws, which restrict competition among health care providers and drive up costs. Nineteen states have opted not to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, better known as “Obamacare,” seeking instead to fix some of the problems with that program. Kentucky and Rhode Island have shown how utilizing waivers can make state Medicaid programs more flexible and sustainable. Maine, Minnesota, and Vermont have demonstrated how removing barriers to dental care can help improve access to dental services, save taxpayers’ money, and lower the burden on the nation’s emergency rooms.
Constitutional Reform Solution. State elected officials are increasingly concerned about the national government’s lack of fiscal discipline. Many state lawmakers are considering the use of Article V of the U.S. Constitution to restore the role of the states and end the practice of burdening future generations with ever-greater government debt. Article V resolutions or bills were introduced in 40 states in 2017.