There are two types of state legislators in America today: Those who remember the darkest days of the Great Recession, when they had to take awful votes cutting services to the core, and those who have only known the heady days of budget surpluses and massive influxes of federal dollars.
In dozens of interviews over the last year, those in the former group say they have urged those in the latter group to exercise caution with the recent windfalls — cognizant that the good times cannot keep rolling.
“Things are scary again,” California Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee chair Nancy Skinner (D) told us earlier this year.
And that was before this week’s report from California’s Legislative Analysis Office, the nonpartisan panel that found the state is already in a $68 billion hole.
Because of the way its tax code is structured, California, as we’ve written before, is uniquely vulnerable to the fluctuations of the stock market and higher interest rates. But there are similar signs of a downturn in state revenue ahead, as some states report shortfalls in revenue collections or just slower growth over time.
In many states, the older cohort of lawmakers, those who remember the Great Recession, pushed their younger colleagues to use surpluses to fund one-time projects, rather than new ongoing programs. That could soften any blow if and when the economy turns sour.
But for those who have only known boom times, a rude awakening may be just around the corner.
Here are seven things you missed in the states this week:
BUDGETS: States spent a record $2.96 trillion last year as federal funds left over from the Covid pandemic boost state budgets. State spending is more than 40% higher than pre-pandemic levels, according to the National Association of State Budget Officers. Health care and education account for about 60% of overall state spending. (Pluribus News)
HEALTH CARE: About 11.8 million people have been unenrolled in Medicaid through Dec. 1, and a new poll shows 58% of Medicaid enrollees have heard little or nothing about their state’s efforts to redetermine eligibility. More than seven in ten people who have lost coverage have done so for procedural reasons, like failing to finish paperwork. (Pluribus News)
Florida Senate President Kathleen Passidomo (R) has outlined a package of legislation she will pursue next year to address workforce shortages in health care, establish a health care innovation council, create new behavioral health teaching hospitals and expand health care price transparency. Passidomo said Medicaid expansion is still off the table. (Pluribus News)
EDUCATION: Texas legislators adjourned their fourth special session of the year without taking action on school vouchers and safety funding, as House and Senate members failed to reach a deal. Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has threatened to call a fifth special session, though the timing — and whether another session would break the impasse — is unclear. (Texas Tribune)
ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE: Meta, the parent company of Facebook, has partnered with IBM to launch the AI Alliance to advocate for an “open science” approach to artificial intelligence. That puts those companies at odds with Google, Microsoft and OpenAI, the makers of ChatGPT, which are pursuing closed-source AI development. The two sides disagree over the safest way to develop AI technology. (Associated Press)
Get ready for a mammoth lobbying battle between the world’s largest tech magnates.
New Mexico Attorney General Raul Torrez (D) is suing Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, for allegedly directing harmful and inappropriate material toward minors. Torrez said his lawsuit is the first to focus on child sexual abuse material and trafficking. (Santa Fe New Mexican)
IMMIGRATION: The Texas Senate has given final approval to legislation appropriating $1.54 billion to build barriers along the border with Mexico. The bill will fund about 40 miles of barrier in Starr, Cameron, Val Verde and Webb counties. (Texas Tribune)
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has ordered Texas to remove a floating barrier in the Rio Grande River, affirming a lower court order requiring Texas to obtain permission from the Army Corps of Engineers to place a barrier in the river. Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) said he would seek a rehearing by the full Fifth Circuit. (Texas Tribune)
Massachusetts lawmakers approved a $3 billion supplemental spending package that includes $250 million to expand the state’s overwhelmed emergency shelter system in the face of an influx of migrants. The bill requires Gov. Maura Healey’s (D) administration to use $50 million to create new overflow shelters. (Boston Globe)
GUN POLITICS: The Ohio House approved legislation Wednesday allowing municipalities to permit concealed firearms in buildings with courtrooms, albeit when court hearings aren’t taking place. The measure comes after residents in Lebanon sued the city in an effort to let them carry firearms in city hall. (Columbus Dispatch)
POLITICS: Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) will take over from Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) as chair of the Republican Governors Association, the group said Thursday. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) will serve as vice chair. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee said Wednesday it would begin investing tens of thousands of dollars in legislative races in Michigan, Arizona, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. (The Hill)
Former Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Secretary Collin O’Mara (D) has formed an exploratory committee as he considers a run for governor. O’Mara would join Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long (D) and New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer (D) in the Democratic primary. (Delaware Public Media)
In Utah, former House Minority Leader Brian King (D) will run for governor in 2024, he said Monday. Utah hasn’t elected a Democratic governor since Scott Matheson won office in 1980. (Salt Lake Tribune)
In New Hampshire, former Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R) has raised $2.74 million in her bid to replace retiring Gov. Chris Sununu (R). Ayotte has $2.34 million left in the bank. (WMUR) Executive Councilor Cinde Warmington (D) raised just over $1 million since entering the race in June. Her campaign has $675,000 on hand. (WMUR)
New Jersey Democrats will have no shortage of candidates to choose from in 2025. Former Senate President Steve Sweeney (D) will run to replace term-limited Gov. Phil Murphy (D) in 2025, joining Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop (D) in the Democratic primary. U.S. Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D) and Mikie Sherrill (D) are both lining up support for their own bids, as are Newark Mayor Ras Baraka (D) and Speaker Craig Coughlin (D) and current Senate President Nicholas Scutari (D). (New Jersey Globe)