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Budget Politics Shift as Federal Deficit Recedes, State Surpluses Appear

This week saw the case for budget austerity at both the state and federal levels continue to rapidly fall apart. A new Congressional Budget Office report showed that the federal budget deficit problem may not actually be that much of a problem anymore, and debates over what to do with budget surpluses began to percolate in the states as treasuries started to count tax revenues that came in last month, even as the pain from sequestration cuts also continued to be felt in all fifty states:

More Positive Signs for Voting Rights Laws

After a year that started off with a wave of efforts to suppress the vote - many of which continue - more and more states are now looking at enacting significant reforms to modernize voter registration and protect and expand voting rights. Here's a roundup of recent developments:

Radical Right-Wing Tax Plans Run Into Trouble

Taxes are on the minds of many this week as April 15th approaches. They're also on the minds of many conservative governors -- in states such as Louisiana, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Nebraska -- who have seen their radical tax proposals to further enrich corporations and the wealthy run into major resistance from voters, businesses, and even conservative lawmakers. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, who this week withdrew his regressive plan that would have eliminated the state income tax while raising the sales tax, has seen his standing drop sharply in the polls. In the run up to Tax Day, increasing attention is being focused on how tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations increase burdens on the middle class.

Is Obamacare Finally "Winning"?

A longtime staunch opponent of the Affordable Care Act decided to support expanding Medicaid in his state this week, adding to the list of conservatives who are having a change of heart on the issue, as advocates (as well as hospitals and other industry forces) continue to lobby hard for states to take full advantage of the federal funding provided in the ACA. At the same time, lawmakers from states including Mississippi continued their efforts to push for expansion as well. As full enactment of the law draws closer and closer, progressive lawmakers are growing bolder in their advocacy for full implementation of the ACA, and events this week signaled a clear shift in the political terrain in favor of supporters of health reform:

On Marriage Equality, Eight Years = 180 Degrees

Eight years ago, progressives were recovering from an Election Day that saw a full 11 states ban same-sex marriage at the polls. The environment in early 2013 could not be more different. Coming off of historic successes at the polls in four states in November, momentum behind marriage equality efforts continues to grow in state after state in advance of what is likely to be a landmark Supreme Court decision on the issue this term:

A "Progressive Tax Rebellion"?

As goes California, so goes the nation? The conservative anti-tax revolt that began in the Golden State over 30 years ago was rebuked by voters this past November when they approved Prop 30. Early in sessions in 2013, other states are showing signs of following a similar path and refusing to rely on economically destructive cuts:

Opposition to Obamacare Shows Signs of Weakening

With a Supreme Court decision and a presidential election now come and gone, conservatives in many states seem to be having second thoughts about their opposition to the Affordable Care Act. Meanwhile, progressive lawmakers in Iowa and Michigan signaled they were set to introduce legislation on Medicaid expansion:

As National Debate Flares, Surveying Contraceptive Coverage In the States

In the furor surrounding the Obama Administration’s decision this month that contraceptive coverage be provided to women by their employer or insurer, the leadership provided by states in the debate about women’s health has often been overlooked. States have been on the forefront of the fight to ensure that women have access to contraceptives, with 28 states having laws on the books requiring access.