State legislatures face closures

The Mississippi capitol in Jackson, Miss.

TEXT OF STORY

Tess Vigeland: Our government may shut down but hey, that just puts California on the leading edge of yet another trend. Arizona, Indiana, Pennsylvania and Mississippi are among the other states working frantically to keep the lights on. Marketplace's Jeff Tyler considers some of the common denominators.


JEFF TYLER: Some of the challenges are procedural. Just as California requires a two-thirds majority to pass a budget, Arizona requires a super-majority to enact a tax increase.

NICK Johnson: It's hard enough to get a majority of legislators to agree on anything, much less a super majority.

That's Nick Johnson, director of the State Fiscal Project at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. He says some sticking points are political.

Johnson: There are people in all these states who are rigidly opposed to doing anything on the revenue side.

Which is to say, no new taxes. And then there are fiscal commitments that can't be shed. Just as the federal government takes a hands-off approach to entitlements like Social Security and Medicare.

ROBERT Ward: States are now seeing the same lack of flexibility with Medicaid and some other areas, such as health care for public employees.

Robert Ward is deputy director of the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government, a think tank. He says one in four state tax dollars is dedicated to health care for public workers and the poor.

Ward: It has become, for many states, the biggest budgetary headache over the last 10 to 20 years.

And rising health-care costs aren't expected to go away. So look forward to more budget stand-offs in the years to come.

I'm Jeff Tyler for Marketplace.

About the author

Jeff Tyler is a reporter for Marketplace’s Los Angeles bureau, where he reports on issues related to immigration and Latin America.

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