How Did Mexico Pass a Soda Tax?

This story appears in Governing's annual International issue.

In the realm of public health, Mexico has succeeded in pushing forward a policy that has so far eluded more than 30 U.S. states and cities. In October, the Mexican Legislature passed a soda tax. READ MORE

How Salt Lake City Solved Chronic Veteran Homelessness

Some time in the next few weeks Elizabeth Buehler expects to say these words: Salt Lake City has ended chronic veteran homelessness.

Buehler, the homeless services coordinator for the city, estimated that only 37 chronically homeless veterans -- as identified by local shelters and other nonprofits -- remained unhoused. That’s down from 100, the number at the start of November. “We’re going through this like gangbusters right now,” Buehler says. READ MORE

Fighting Fires Burns Through Money That Keeps Them from Starting

In 2012, the Waldo Canyon wildfire destroyed nearly 18,000 acres of land in El Paso County, Colo., making it, at the time, the most destructive fire in state history. Today Sallie Clark, the county commissioner who represents much of the area that burned, wonders whether the fire needed to be so severe. “If the forest had been mitigated,” she asks, “would it have been so out of control?”

Indeed, a growing number of voices at all levels of government are questioning whether the federal government’s approach to wildfire prevention is running as well as it could. At a recent Senate subcommittee hearing, Jim Hubbard, deputy chief of the U.S. Forest Service, testified that in 2013, more than 4.1 million acres burned in the United States. On its face, that doesn’t mean much, but it’s part of a troubling trend: Wildfires in the U.S. are becoming bigger, more destructive and more frequent. READ MORE

Bill to Require Annual Pension Reports Gaining Traction in Congress

There’s a bill in Congress that opponents say would create headaches for public pension managers and could make it harder to finance infrastructure development. So far the measure has sat quietly in committee. But that’s no reason to brush it off, says one policy expert.

“People should take this seriously,” says Jeff Hurley, a policy analyst for the National Conference of State Legislatures. “The federal government is looking at the unfunded liability of state and local [governments] and connecting that to [how] those governments serve the common needs of constituents by way of infrastructure. It is very scary.” READ MORE


Obamacare's Cadillac Tax Forces a Tough Decision on Governments

For years, the philosophy on compensation for public-sector workers has been fairly straightforward: The pay isn’t always great, but the benefits are. But that’s changing, and the political implications could be big for public officials.

Under the terms of the Obama health reform law, so-called “Cadillac” health insurance plans worth more than $10,200 for individuals or $27,500 for families face a 40 percent excise tax starting in 2018. The logic behind the plan is that rapidly exploding health costs are driven partly by overconsumption of health-care services by Americans who have little skin in the game thanks to low co-pays and deductibles. The goal is to tax the most generous Cadillac plans to drive people toward plans that make them contribute more. Taxes collected from those who stay in Cadillac plans could be used to fund other aspects of the law. READ MORE