The Top State Policy Issues for 2014
As state lawmakers head back to their state capitols to begin their 2014 legislative sessions, states are expected to face many important issues this year. Here is a list of what Heartland staff believes will be some of the top state issues to watch for in 2014.
Rolling Back State Renewable Mandates
As states begin to run out of time to hit their renewable energy mandates and the availability of low-cost, low-carbon domestic natural gas continues to improve, more than a dozen states in 2013 considered bills that would freeze or eliminate these renewable requirements. Expect even more states to take on this issue in 2014.
Most states already have decided whether or not to expand their Medicaid programs as part of Obamacare. Currently, 26 states have chosen to expand their Medicaid programs and 22 states have chosen not to do so. Pressure in states that have refused to expand could lead to states experimenting with plans similar to Arkansas’ “private option.”
States and municipalities across the country are continuing to face structural budget deficits as they try to compensate for the pension promises made to their employees. Expect more states to follow the lead of Rhode Island, which in 2011 passed some of the most sweeping pension reforms in the past decade. Those reforms are expected to save the state $250 million this year alone.
Hydraulic fracturing technology has given the states access to deep deposits of energy, leading to a boom in natural gas reserves as a source of cheap and clean electricity generation. In 2013, some states and municipalities considered fracking moratoria, while Illinois, California, and Colorado focused on how to allow but regulate hydraulic fracturing. Most states will continue looking at prudent ways to regulate fracking rather than banning it.
Common Core Education Standards
No issue surprised state legislatures in 2013 more than Common Core education standards. The lack of information about these standards and public outcry led to many states considering proposals to delay or reject the standards. In 2014 many states will continue to debate the issue and take up proposals to protect student privacy and reject national standards in favor of state-driven standards.
Income Tax Reform
According to the American Legislative Exchange Council, 18 states made a total of 25 meaningful tax cuts during the 2013 legislative session. Many tax policy experts believe the trend of states implementing tax reform and tax cuts will continue in 2014 and beyond. Georgia, Louisiana, Nebraska, Nevada, South Carolina, and Wisconsin, to name a few, are expected to consider major tax reform proposals in 2014.
Eighteen states have instituted an Internet sales tax, the so-called “Amazon tax,” but in 2013 the Illinois supreme court struck down the state’s Internet tax. The debate over taxes on Internet purchases will largely be at the federal level with the Marketplace Fairness Act, but Congress’s action or inaction on the issue will have a huge impact on states looking to tax these purchases.
If you would like any more information about these issues or for Heartland experts to speak or testify in your state, please email me at [email protected]. We’re here to help!
Director of Government Relations
The Heartland Institute