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

Volume 18   Issue 23 - June 24, 2011
 

STATE LEGISLATORS: MAKE YOUR VOICES HEARD

Here’s your chance to make suggestions on how to save money and limit burdensome paperwork by streamlining the state-federal education waiver process and by reducing the numerous reporting requirements. On Tuesday, June 28, at 2 p.m. Eastern time, the U.S. Department of Education will host an exclusive call for state legislators and legislative staff to solicit your ideas on: how to improve the process for receiving maintenance of effort waivers; how to limit the many policy, regulatory and administrative requirements or receive waiver from them; and how more flexibility could facilitate school reforms and improvements. Please e-mail lee.posey@ncsl.org to obtain dial-in and password information for the call. NCSL's long-standing, state-federal education policy on these topics is available at http://www.ncsl.org/Default.aspx?TabID=773&tabs=855,22,634#FedRole. NCSL staff contacts: Lee Posey, Michael Reed


BUDGET FORECAST: DARK, DAUNTING AND CLOUDY

As lawmakers in Washington attempt to agree on the best way to address the nation’s deficit, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) cites the federal government’s unsustainable fiscal path in their release of the 2011 long-term budget outlook. Both of CBO’s long-term budget scenarios highlight structural budget deficiencies and call on lawmakers to confront the “daunting” situation. Under the extended-baseline scenario, which adheres closely to current law, revenues would reach 23 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2035, and the portion of the federal debt held by the public would grow to 84 percent. Under the alternative fiscal scenario, which includes likely budget changes such as extending tax cuts, revenues would maintain their historical averages of 18 percent of GDP, but the federal debt would rise to 190 percent by 2035. In his blog, CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf stated: “To keep deficits and debt from climbing to unsustainable levels, policymakers will need to increase revenues substantially as a percentage of GDP, decrease spending significantly from approached levels, or adopt some combination of those two approaches.” This statement mirrors conclusions reached in numerous bipartisan deficit reduction reports. A link to CBO’s report is available here: http://www.cbo.gov/doc.cfm?index=12212. NCSL staff contacts: Michael Bird, Jeff Hurley


[UN]HEALTHY FOR STATES

Thanks in part to a states’ rights and federalism letter sent by NCSL, H.R. 5, the “Help, Efficient, Accessible, Low-cost, Timely Healthcare (HEALTH) Act of 2011” has lost significant momentum in the U.S. House. “The adoption of a one-size-fits-all approach to medical malpractice envisioned in H.R. 5 and other related measures would undermine state diversity and disregard factors unique to each particular state,” wrote Assemblyman William Horne of Nevada and Representative Jerry Madden of Texas, the chair and immediate past-chair of NCSL’s Committee on Law and Criminal Justice, respectively. Their letter was sent to the House Judiciary Committee and the Subcommittee on Health within the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. A link to the letter is available here: http://www.ncsl.org/default.aspx?tabid=22234. NCSL staff contacts: Susan Parnas Frederick, Jennifer Arguinzoni


DEFICIT STANDOFF CONTINUES

Another week of budget discussions for Vice President Joe Biden’s working group has yielded no solution, just an impasse in talks. Although the group met several times, members made little to no progress on entitlement and revenue issues. In light of this stalemate, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia and Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona, members of the working group, have temporarily dropped out of discussions. This will likely lead to direct talks among President Barack Obama, Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada to reach a compromise. Policymakers were hoping to have an outline agreed to by the end of June to have time to debate it before the Aug. 2 deadline for raising the debt limit. The lack of consensus on a comprehensive deficit plan amplifies the likelihood of a short-term increase in the debt ceiling. NCSL staff contacts: Michael Bird, Jeff Hurley