Dylan Scott is a GOVERNING staff writer.E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
As newspapers nationwide ushered in the new year, they expressed both skepticism and optimism that 2012 could be different from 2011. Many included a list of goals for their state or local governments, pleading with politicians to abandon partisan interests and act in the best interest of their constituents. Their specific aims varied, but a common thread ran through each of them: let's make this year better than the last.
The Northwest Herald of McHenry County, Ill., listed a string of general resolutions for state and local policymakers, starting that a wish that "all lawmakers ... get past partisan bickering and embrace a working relationship consisting of compromise." The editorial board asked the federal government to address its spending and the long-term debt. State lawmakers, they said, should focus their attention on the Illinois state pension system, which has $85 billion in overdue payments. State and local governments should make their state and cities more "business friendly," the Herald argued in its Jan. 1 editorial, and live within their financial means.
The Birmingham (Ala.) News had a very precise request for its state legislature: repeal every aspect of the state's controversial new immigration law except the E-Verify requirement, which mandates that employers verify their employees' immigration status. The rest of the law has proved ineffective or worse, the newspaper argued on Jan. 1.
"The state is having to defend itself against a batch of lawsuits, which, so far, have resulted in federal courts putting much of the law on hold," the News wrote. "The law has led to long lines for legal citizens at local courthouses, crops rotting in farmers' fields and a public relations nightmare for industrial recruiters after police cited two workers at the Mercedes and Honda auto plants for not having proper documents with them."
Other priorities should include a balanced budget and tax reform, among others, the newspaper said.
The (Glen Falls, N.Y.) Post-Star centered its 2012 resolutions on the local communities of its readership. The Saratoga County board of supervisors needs to craft a budget that reflects the more stringent economic realities of today, the editorial board said, and all the villages in the neighboring counties should be eliminated and those governments working with one another to save money. Economic development and tourism agencies should be merged, the newspaper wrote, to act in the common interest. "We are all in this together and we should act accordingly," the Post-Star stated in its Dec. 31 editorial. "We also know that is easier said than done."
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch expressed skepticism that much would be accomplished in the Missouri Legislature during a major election year in which many politicians are mostly concerned about being reelected to their seat or moving to a higher office. "What that means for citizens of the state is that expectations for lasting accomplishments in the coming legislative session should be low -- very low," the newspaper concluded in its Jan. 3 editorial.
But if they choose to buck historical trends and political interests to focus on significant change, the Post-Dispatch had a series of suggestions of issues that legislators should address: the Turner Fix, a policy that allows students to transfer out of failing schools; exploration of taxes as source of revenue for needed repairs to the state's roads and bridges; and reform of the state's Injury Fund, which pays money to workers who are injured on the job, but has run out of money in recent years.
The Washington Times had some advice for Congress and the nation as a whole in its Dec. 30 editorial: "America need to go on a red-tape diet." The newspaper noted that 2011 ended with federal lawmakers drafting more than 80,000 new pages of regulations for the nation's industries. The editorial cites a study by the Competitive Enterprise Institute that concluded businesses spend $1.75 trillion in their efforts to meet federal requirements. "Every dollar spent filling out pointless paperwork and every hour spent attempting to decipher arcane laws reduces the ability of businesses to expand operations and hire new employees," the Times said. "That's why the greatest gift Congress and the Obama administration could give to the economy would be a regulatory moratorium."