California Journal of Politics and Policy
(CJPP) is an online journal of original scholarship, focusing on state and
local politics, public policy formation and implementation, especially in the Golden
Volume 14, Issue 1, 2022
California’s State-County Assessors’ Partnership Agreement Program (SCAPAP) provided select counties with a dollar-for-dollar matching grant from the state for assessment administration over a three-year period from fiscal year 2015 through 2017. One of the policy goals for the grant was to finance administrative activities that would lead to an increase in the property tax base, thereby increasing property tax revenue. This study evaluates how well the grant accomplished this goal. Using the synthetic control method on data from 2007 through 2018, I find little evidence SCAPAP funds increased participating counties’ property tax base. Since the purpose of the program is based on sound economic theory, I caution interpreting this conclusion as a reason to discontinue policy experimentation.
The Unprecedented Federal Fiscal Policy Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic and Its Impact on State Budgets
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, within a year’s time span, the federal government enacted unprecedented fiscal response bills totaling over $5 trillion. This response amount equates to about 25% of U.S. GDP in 2020. These massive allocations funded direct pandemic public health responses, along with vast fiscal support for households, firms, and state and local governments. This enormous response supported state and local government budgets both indirectly and directly, resulting in a marked budgetary shift from anticipated shortfalls to significant revenue growth and inflationary budget pressures.
In 2021, the State of Alaska faced substantial challenges due to the public health and economic impacts of COVID-19. COVID damaged Alaska’s state revenues by driving down global oil prices. COVID also harmed the state’s economy more broadly, with substantial impacts on some extractive industries and tourism. However, Alaska’s budgetary problems—high expenditures and low revenues—long predate COVID and are related to Alaska’s historical dependence on fossil fuel extraction for state revenue. Alaska’s budget situation has improved somewhat through 2021 as oil prices have risen globally, though this may also complicate budgetary debates in Spring 2022.
Amidst a global pandemic, a gubernatorial recall election, and a shaky economy, California had one of its best budget years in recent memory. Flush with cash, the state was able to make unprecedented investments in education, health, and social welfare programs, provide direct stimulus payments to many California residents, and still set aside money in its rainy-day fund. Governor Newsom handily defeated the recall effort, and the budget outlook for 2022 looks bright. 2021 was a tumultuous year, but California is proving that it’s once again the “Golden State”.
The COVID-19 pandemic was a monumental exogeneous shock to the Colorado economy. Prior to the pandemic’s onset the state reported historically low unemployment alongside robust growth in personal income levels and state revenue. While the negative economic effects of the pandemic were sharp, the state’s economic recovery is outpacing what many economists previously projected. The General Assembly was compelled to impose major cuts to last year’s budget, many of which were restored with the enactment of the budget for the 2021–2022 fiscal year. The General Fund budget of $13.6 billion proposed by Democratic Governor Jared Polis represented a substantial spending increase of 20 percent from the prior year. The enacted $13.1 billion General Fund budget received nearly unanimous approval among Democrats and modest Republican support. Policymakers ultimately sought to balance competing priorities across many issue areas, while also preparing for the future with a major investment of $1.5 billion to the state’s reserve fund.
Hawai‘i’s economy was devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The effective closure of the tourism industry created an unemployment crisis and led to a dramatic decline in tax revenues. Nevertheless, Hawai‘i managed to avoid mass layoffs of public employees and draconian cuts in public services because of federal relief funds. The $15.9 billion budget for FY2022 restored funding to most departments, but the state’s dependence on the visitor industry has left it particularly vulnerable to future pandemic travel restrictions.
This paper presents an overview of the State of Idaho’s FY 2022 budget recommendations and appropriations in the context of demographic changes, economic conditions, and politics. The Executive Budget for FY 2022 notes Governor Little’s historical support of education, job growth, economic opportunity, and fostering an environment for Idaho to avoid citizen migration to other states. However, this policy, along with the COVID-19 exodus, has resulted in a large influx of people from other states with the commensurate housing and infrastructure demands. As most Idaho budgets tend to move incrementally in support of education and infrastructure in the context of very healthy revenues, the state is likely to weather, though with some ambivalence, economic fluctuations. However, partisan tensions threaten education and safety net programming.
Budgets, combined with tax policy, provide rich evidence of the applied values of legislative bodies and executives. This paper evaluates budget and tax legislation in Montana that resulted from the 67th legislative session in 2021 that set policy for the 2023 biennium. Montana, whose political complexation has long been purple, moved unambiguously red in the elections of November 2020. This paper speaks to how this changed things in Montana's public policy, in the areas of budget and tax, and a series of other policy areas. One of the more notable findings is that while budget and tax certainly shifted right with the dominance of the Republican Party that itself has moved further right than where it was as recently as 2019, it did not move as far right as many observers had anticipated. The explanation provided here is that this was largely a result of the large infusion of federal COVID relief funds.
In the spring of 2020, the global coronavirus pandemic brought deadly disease to New Mexico, a state already struggling with inadequate health care, vulnerable populations and an unreliable state revenue base. A strong executive and mostly willing legislature met multiple times in multiple special sessions to reduce budgets, allocate federal funds, and shore up public finances. They also had to deal with social and cultural fights aggravated by strict public health orders and plunging revenues. By the close of 2020, the state was slowly regaining its fiscal footing and physical health, though the underlying problems of inadequate health care, educational and economic inequality, and a budget overly reliant on extractive industries remain. As a result of the 2020 general election, the public officials chosen to resolve these issues are more likely to be progressive Democrats, more likely to be women, and more demographically reflective of the majority-minority state they call home.
Oregon in 2020 and 2021 resembled other Western states: crisis on crisis. COVID, the COVID recession, forest fires and ice storms, and polarized politics dominated the news. Despite these challenges, the state’s fiscal situation turned out very positively. President Biden’s American Rescue Plan and the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act signed in November 2021 provided many billions to the state for 2021 and will cover diverse infrastructure needs over the next five years. This paper analyzes the surprisingly strong general fund and federal fund situations created by the COVID era and considers the political implications of the state’s fiscal situation.
Threatening economic impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic on Utah’s economy proved to be short-lived, due in part to early budget cuts, federal economic relief, and an expanding economy that out-performed expectations. Subsequently, FY22 provided the Utah Legislature opportunities to invest in education, infrastructure, and social services. Legislators also used this opportunity to cut taxes for veterans, the elderly population, and families. As the state’s population continues to grow at record rates, Utah decisionmakers must grapple with rising housing prices and record-high rental rates. This report highlights specific challenges and opportunities Utah faced through negotiating a record-high budget of $25.6 billion and provides an overview of Utah’s economy and changing demographic makeup.
The citizens of State of Washington have, like individuals throughout the country, had to navigate unprecedented personal and economic hardship. The supplemental budget passed by the legislature during the 2021 legislative session represents an attempt to address some of the issues that presented as an outgrowth of the pandemic. However, the legislature also considered significant policy changes with respect to, among other items, the environment, taxation, and education. These policy debates were, at times, rather contentious and are indicative of the partisan fault lines existing throughout the state.
Despite $430 million in spending reductions and the loss of 324 state positions, Wyoming’s 2021 supplemental budget reflected an improved pandemic-driven economic climate. Recent budgetary optimism was attributed to increased performance in energy production and pricing, pent up demand for tourism and travel, and higher than expected sales tax revenues. Continued reliance on Wyoming’s Permanent Mineral Trust Fund, and the state’s attachment to the remainder of its boom-and-bust revenue structure, left surprisingly little appetite for discussions of revenue diversificatioan. Instead, “right-sizing” state government to fit the current revenue stream seems more consistent with the spirit of the times.