By Anna Petrini

Despite the recent bipartisan budget agreement, federal budget negotiators won’t be locking arms and singing "Kumbaya" anytime soon, according to Stan Collender, national director of financial communications at Qorvis. Collender shared his predictions for ongoing partisan tensions inside the Beltway and their fiscal implications for the states with dozens of legislators and staff members at NCSL’s Midwest States Fiscal Leaders Meeting in Chicago at the end of January.

Stan Collender“What you are seeing currently is about what you can expect from the federal government for the next five years,” said Collender, citing an end to the era of dramatic increases in federal discretionary spending. “What you see now is what you get, and you’ll have to fight like hell to keep it,” he cautioned. States cannot expect lawmakers in Washington to take meaningful action on tax reform or entitlement spending until long after the 2016 election cycle, creating sustained pressure on the discretionary side.

Collender added that without near-term prospects for action on the budget itself, Congress has a unique opportunity to review the budget process. Calling for a new budget commission, he encouraged states to press for changes to the federal budget process that reflect their priorities.

The Midwest States Fiscal Leaders Meeting featured conversations with other policy experts on a range of issues facing Midwestern states, from the Affordable Care Act implementation to the state role in local government fiscal distress. William Testa, vice president for regional economics at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, offered attendees a regional economic and employment outlook that highlighted the Midwest’s role in the national and global labor market. Participants examined recent trends in the manufacturing, energy and agricultural sectors and discussed the efficacy of tax incentive packages and policy prescriptions, such as raising the minimum wage.

With its New England Fiscal Leaders Meeting in Portsmouth, N.H, coming up next week, NCSL plans to host a series of regional meetings to connect state fiscal policymakers with renowned experts, timely research and each other. NCSL partnered with The Pew Charitable Trusts and The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to make the Midwest Fiscal Leaders meeting possible.

Anna Petrini is a policy associate at NCSL.

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This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.


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