Capitol to Capitol
An Information Service of NCSL's Standing Committees

Volume 17   Issue 35 - November 19, 2010

 

LONG-TERM EXTENSION SOUGHT FOR TRANSPORTATION

NCSL and five other state and local government organizations urged Congress to pass “a long-term extension of existing federal programs for highways and transit” the authority for which expires on New Year’s Eve. NCSL, governors, the Council of State Governments, counties, cities and city managers stated in a letter on Nov. 17, that a long-term extension “is essential to ensure reliability in transportation planning because short-term extensions force states and local governments to focus on smaller projects rather than invest in comprehensive infrastructure projects that require federal funding certainty.” The complete letter is available at http://www.ncsl.org/default.aspx?TabId=21766. Earlier this week, Florida Representative John Mica and Minnesota Representative James Oberstar publicly stated their support for a six-month and 12-month extension respectively. Highway, highway safety and mass transit programs were scheduled to be reauthorized this year. But like a half dozen other key state-federal programs, they will also likely slip into 2011. State legislators should urge their congressional delegations to enact a long-term extension to give states certainty on funding and planning for 2011. (NCSL staff contacts: Molly Ramsdell, Helen Narvasa)


UNEMPLOYMENT WAIVER EXTENSION SOUGHT ALSO

Kansas Representative Lana Gordon and Kentucky Representative Brent Yonts urged Congress to immediately extend the “waiver on interest from loans from the federal unemployment insurance trust fund” on Nov. 16. Waiver authority ends Dec. 31, 2010. Representatives Gordon and Yonts, co-chairs of NCSL’s Labor and Economic Development Committee, pointed out U.S. Department of Labor projections that indicate “up to 40 states are expected to be borrowing [from the trust fund] before the economy recovers.” States already have borrowed more than $40 billion from the federal account to cover benefits during the current economic cycle. Congress’ attention regarding unemployment insurance has focused on a Nov. 30, 2010, sunset of its authority to extend benefits further. H.R. 6419 would extend that authority through Feb. 28, 2011. That legislation failed yesterday to garner the two-thirds vote necessary to pass on the House suspension calendar. State legislators are encouraged to contact their congressional delegations and recommend they support an extension of the waiver. NCSL’s complete letter is available at http://www.ncsl.org/default.aspx?tabid=21724.  (NCSL staff contact: James Ward)


ANOTHER DEFICIT REDUCTION PLAN SURFACES

On Nov. 17, a third comprehensive deficit reduction report, to be proposed in a matter of days, surfaced. The Bipartisan Policy Center—co-chaired by former U.S. Senator Pete Domenici (New Mexico) and Dr. Alice Rivlin, former director of the Office of Management and Budget—issued recommendations to reduce and stabilize the national debt below 60 percent of GDP by 2020. The report, titled “Restoring America’s Future,” offers a 1-year payroll tax holiday for approximately 125 million workers in 2011 and a 6.5 cents national sales tax. It calls for revamping Medicaid through a federal-state negotiation of program responsibilities in addition to a reform of shared financing arrangements. It would freeze domestic discretionary spending for four years, and cap it at the GDP afterward. It would also freeze defense discretionary spending for five years. The proposal recommends preemption of state medical malpractice authority, elimination of farm subsidies for wealthier producers and biennial budgeting. The 20-page executive summary and 138-page full report are available at: http://bipartisanpolicy.org/sites/default/files/FINAL%20DRTF%20EXECUTIVE%20SUMMARY_0.pdf


A BAN ON NEW MANDATES MOVES AHEAD

On Nov.16, Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander convinced the Senate Republican Conference to support a non-binding resolution that puts the caucus on record as opposing the imposition of any new unfunded federal mandates on states. Senator Alexander’s resolution supports the creation of a point of order on unfunded mandates that may be waived only by a three-fifths vote on the Senate floor. It also asks the Budget Committee to review federal unfunded mandates on state and local governments and possibly recommend the repeal of certain mandates. NCSL wholeheartedly endorsed the resolution in a Nov. 16, letter signed by Massachusetts Senator Richard Moore and Georgia Senator Don Balfour, NCSL’s president and immediate past president respectively. The NCSL letter is available at: http://www.ncsl.org/default.aspx?TabId=21723. (NCSL staff contacts: Michael Bird, Jeff Hurley)


STATES GET GUIDANCE ON DUAL ELIGIBLES/COST SHIFTING

Last week, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released guidance to states that decide to apply for five-year Medicaid waivers to provide services to dual eligibles, individuals who qualify for both Medicaid and Medicare. Federal health care reform authorizes these waivers for those states that can demonstrate they will provide services and care they would not otherwise be able to under their current state plans. Budget neutrality requirements will apply. The guidance is available at http://www.cms.gov/smdl/downloads/SMD10022.pdf. Simultaneously, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services clarified, in other guidance rules, that states are prohibited from shifting Medicaid costs to political subdivisions if they are to receive enhanced federal Medicaid matching assistance under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. This guidance is available at http://www.cms.gov/smdl/downloads/SMD10023.pdf. (NCSL staff contacts: Joy Johnson Wilson, Rachel Morgan)


AND STATES GET GREENHOUSE GAS GUIDANCE

On Nov. 10, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued guidance  in determining the best available control technology (BACT) for controlling greenhouse gas emissions from stationery sources. The guidance does not establish a singular BACT regime but rather focuses on controlling greenhouse gases through energy efficiency in power plants, refineries and other stationery sources. For more, go to http://www.epa.gov/nsr/ghgpermitting.html. (NCSL staff contacts: Tamra Spielvogel, Max Behlke)


ON THE HORIZON

The president and congressional leaders were scheduled to discuss a potpourri of unresolved issues on Nov. 18. That meeting has now been moved to Nov 30. Until then, prospects for action on the expiring 2001 and 2003 federal tax cuts, FY 2011 appropriations, the alternative minimum tax and federal estate tax, expiring federal tax credits, and a host of state-federal program reauthorizations remain in abeyance… Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that the Senate will tackle a defense reauthorization bill and the Dream Act during the lame duck session that reconvenes after Thanksgiving. The Dream Act would allow children of undocumented parents to become permanent residents if they have lived here for a long time and enlist in the military or attend college for at least two years.