Thursday, January 6, 2011

State Outlook for 2011

Over the past few months, American Heart Association volunteers and staff in all 50 states have been developing their legislative agendas and preparing plans on how to assure heart disease and stroke related issues are prioritized in legislatures across the country in 2011. In addition to the three states that are continuing their legislative sessions, which started in 2010, we will see 42 states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, go into session in January with another four states beginning their sessions by April.

When legislatures reconvene this year, the political landscape will look significantly different in many states. As a result of the November 2010 elections, 13 state legislatures changed party majority and 29 new Governors will be place. These changes will result in many legislatures reorganizing and we are sure to see new committee structures, chairs and legislative leaders in place in 2011. These changes will make for an interesting and exciting 2011.

For 2011, states are prioritizing a variety of heart disease and stroke related issues, ranging from requiring high school students be taught CPR prior to graduation to developing telemedicine systems that will assure those in the most remote locations will be able to receive critical specialty care. The issues which are being addressed most widely are: promoting physical education programs in schools; creating or strengthening stroke system of care; securing or protecting tobacco prevention funding; and establishing strong secondhand smoke policies. Each of these policy issues are on the legislative agendas in more than 30 states.

Of special concern for states will be significant state budget deficits. According to a recent report, jointly released by the National Governor’s Association (NGA) and the National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO), fiscal conditions will remain a major challenge for state budgets and state will continue to face slow revenue growth, increased spending demands and the end of the stimulus funds provided to state buy the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

State budget deficits provide an opening for staff and volunteers to establish the benefits of a tobacco tax increase. The AHA supports tobacco excise tax increases because of the many well-known health benefits however they can also provide much need fiscal resources to state coffers. At least nineteen state advocacy teams crafted strategic plans around a tobacco excise tax increase for their state. State budget deficits also make the plans our state teams carry out around increasing and protecting heart disease and stroke prevention funding even more critical.

For more information about the state policy agenda in your state please contact your local state advocacy staff.


Anonymous said...

While I advocate for heart disease and stroke prevention, I do not support funding through tax increases. Enough is enough. Funding can come through the private sector for those who are aware and concerned, through fundraising, volunteerism and other methods. It's time to stop adding to an ever-inflating deficit.

Heart Disease and Stroke: I am the Cure! said...

Thank you for your support of heart disease and stroke prevention. The AHA supports tobacco tax increases because it is one of the best ways to reduce tobacco use, and tobacco use is a major cause of heart disease and stroke. As it turns out, tobacco taxes are actually a win for everyone, except the tobacco companies. Raising the price of tobacco reduces tobacco use, especially among kids. The funds raised through a tobacco tax can then be used for effective tobacco prevention programs. And, tobacco taxes do not add to deficits in any way; quite the opposite. Tobacco use is a huge financial burden on our country – costing every household in America over $600 annually in state and federal taxes to treat tobacco-caused illnesses. Tobacco taxes reduce that overall tax burden by dramatically reducing tobacco use.