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What’s at stake for states following the 2018 election


October 5, 2018
Amy Liu
Brookings

For many voters, this November’s election is shaping up to be about President Trump and the balance of power in Congress, and their implications for everything from judicial appointments, to foreign relations, to the independent counsel investigation.

Yet that is not the only political reset to watch. Thirty-six governors and more than 80 percent of all state legislators in the United States will also be elected on November 6th. With Washington crippled by daily discord, it will be up to the incoming class of state officials to advance the next round of modern-day economic policies missing from the federal agenda.

These reforms will also require local cooperation and ingenuity. States are composed of a diverse network of cities, metro areas, smaller towns, and rural areas, each of which benefit from flexible solutions to their varying challenges. Yet state and local relations have deteriorated in today’s partisan environment, hindering progress that new governors and state legislators can’t afford. The nation needs states and cities together to reinvent programs that keep pace with the forces of change to expand opportunity.

As it stands, states are inheriting policies ill-suited to address the disruption and opportunities brought on by a digital economy. The rise of app-based jobs and contingent labor are creating new norms around work, benefits, and employment stability. The jobs produced in today’s digital age are shifting in skills requirements and quality, with too few offering pathways to middle class pay. Despite the benefit of new technologies, smaller industrial cities in the Heartland still struggle to innovate and retain talent.

These trends test the efficacy and alignment of today’s education, workforce, and economic development policies. Meanwhile, implicit and structural bias in the design and execution of existing policies continue to make it difficult for women, people of color, and low-income persons to find stable homes, support their families, and succeed in the workplace, when long-run growth requires every person to reach his or her potential. Additionally, states and metro areas are grappling with rising health care costs, an opioid crisis, and limited tools to finance infrastructure upgrades, which are all essential to economic security and competitiveness.