It took almost six years for the public sector to feel the first impacts of a recovering economy. Now, as the U.S. enters its seventh year of recovery, state and local budgets are finally becoming more stable, thanks to business expansions, lower unemployment, increased consumer spending, and upticks in tax revenues.
But with revenues still well below prerecession levels, state and local governments are proceeding with caution.
According to National Association of State Budget Officers surveys, 2016 state budgets include widespread, albeit moderate, increases in spending. Although most governors are placing a high priority on education, many states have also renewed emphasis on infrastructure and transportation, with several revising their revenue structures through increasing fuel taxes or other measures.
The National League of Cities (NLC) also reports that after six consecutive years of revenue declines, city budgets are seeing revenue growth for the third year in a row. Although city financial officers are more optimistic than ever about municipal budgets (82% expect to meet fiscal needs), growth is at such a slow pace that revenues won’t return to prerecession levels for several more years. NLC says many cities are taking conservative approaches to their budgets to prepare for future economic downturns.
The National Association of Counties hopes to see relief in the form of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, or FAST Act. President Obama signed the new five-year, $305 billion surface transportation funding package on Dec. 4, 2015.
To find out what all this means for the city, county, special district, township, and state employees responsible for public infrastructure assets, we asked them to share 2016 operations and capital improvement budgets.
Next page: Recovery at the micro level