By Anna Petrini

Dozens of legislators and legislative staff members gathered in Park City, Utah late last week for NCSL’s inaugural Western States Fiscal Leaders Meeting.  Attendees from 14 Western states met for a day and a half to learn from policy experts and each other as they prepare to confront pressing fiscal issues in next year’s legislative sessions.

Mark HaggertyThe West is facing some structural economic challenges, and rural areas are often left behind, “but energy development represents a huge opportunity, and state-level policies can help determine how those opportunities play out,” said Mark Haggerty, an economist with Montana’s Headwaters Economics.  Haggerty shared his research on revenues from unconventional oil and gas drilling as part of a dialogue about the role of fiscal policy in shaping stronger Western communities.

This November, California voters will decide on a ballot measure that would set aside reserve funds to smooth out the boom-and-bust cycles in state budgeting. A significant bipartisan majority backs California’s rainy day fund redesign, and attendees were eager to learn from state budget experts how that consensus was forged and about best practices for managing future uncertainty.

The Western States Fiscal Leaders Meeting also highlighted immigration issues and shifting regional demographics, trends in state infrastructure financing and prospects for expanding economic growth through tourism.

The regulatory costs and revenue gains associated with recreational marijuana legalization in Colorado drew special attention from lawmakers, who explored a range of timely budget and tax topics in spirited roundtable discussions.

Natalie GochnourNatalie Gochnour, associate dean at the University of Utah’s David Eccles School of Business, placed the Western states’ fiscal fortunes in national context during her U.S. economic outlook session.  Keeping a cautious eye on labor force participation and housing market data, Gochnour cited record business profits, accomodative monetary policy and less political vitriol in Washington among the economic tailwinds propelling us toward recovery.  “The great thing about markets is that they do correct. The U.S. economy is leaner and meaner and ready to go,” she said.

NCSL hosts a series of regional meetings to connect state fiscal policymakers with renowned experts, timely research and each other.  Fiscal leaders from all over the Midwest will convene in Minneapolis Aug.  18-19 to kick off NCSL’s 2014 Legislative Summit with a special pre-conference meeting.  These meetings are made possible through the generous support of The Pew Charitable Trusts.


Anna Petrini is a policy associate in NCSL’s Fiscal Affairs Program.

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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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