Some unsolicited advice: what experts think President-elect Obama should know about these issues.

Position::Barack Obama


There is a grand tradition in the United States of offering the new president lots of suggestions for how to run the country whether he wants them or not. in that spirit, Slate Legislatures asked national experts in a variety of areas important to states to offer the new leader of the free world some suggestions. This is neither a comprehensive survey of every public policy issue nor one that draws comment from every possible point of view. The observations, however, do touch on areas that state lawmakers have been wrangling with for some time.


Mark Zandi, chief economist, Moody's

The new president's response to the financial panic and recession must include substantial aid to hard-pressed state and local governments. More than half the states already have announced budget shortfalls and more will soon as the bad economy weighs heavily on tax revenues and adds to their costs. Most states conservatively managed their finances during the good times, saving as much as they could given their legal and political constraints. But the nationwide collapse in property values and flagging retail sales have already led to a record collective budget deficit.

Since most state governments are constitutionally required not to run deficits for very long, they are already planning to cut programs. Tax increases may not be too far off. Spending cuts and tax increases are the wrong thing for a struggling economy.

State governments administer most of the nation's economic safety net programs, including food stamps, welfare benefits, Medicaid and unemployment compensation. There would be no better boost to the nation's collective psyche than strengthening that net. State and local governments also would be instrumental in administering an increase in infrastructure investment. Such spending would be another effective way to stimulate the economy, and there is little doubt that new bridges, roads, water and sewage treatment facilities are needed. While it is difficult to know just when construction projects will get underway and the money will be spent, this is much less of a worry now, given that the economy's problems seem likely to continue well into the next decade.


Chester E. Finn Jr., senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University and president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

The next president should turn the No Child Left Behind Act upside down, creating national standards and tests...

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