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Six senators, one legislative district: Eastern states wrestle with moving away from multi-member districts

In September 2010, Channel 17 in Burlington, Vt., held a multi-candidate debate among aspirants for the state Senate in the local district. Then it held another one. And another. And another. But here’s the interesting part: No candidate appeared more than once. There were 16 different people running for the Senate in the Chittenden County district. If six Democrats, six Republicans and an assortment of third-party candidates had tried to crowd onto one stage, the result would have been chaos.

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Budget gimmicks explained: 5 ways states hide deficits

Last week, California Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a budget that he said was filled with gimmicks — or as he put it, “legally questionable maneuvers, costly borrowing and unrealistic savings.” Editorial boards have praised Brown for exercising responsible fiscal judgment. Meanwhile, Brian Joseph of the Orange County Register has written that Brown’s own budget plan uses gimmicks, too.

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The not-so-fast track for constructing high-speed rail

The last time intercity passenger trains served Madison, Wisconsin's capital city, students at the University of Wisconsin campus there were protesting the Vietnam War. The trains stopped running when Amtrak took over passenger service around the country in 1971. But in January, the federal government announced it would give the state $810 million in stimulus money to return passenger trains to Wisconsin's second-biggest city for the first time in more than four decades.

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Govs ready speeches as fiscal woes persist

As governors prepare their 2010 state of the state addresses, at least 36 of them are still struggling to close continuing budget deficits for the current fiscal year, while worrying about new gaps looming in their 2011 spending plans. The shortfalls show no signs of going away as state revenue continues to fall far below projections, leaving some lawmakers and the public poised to rethink the role of state government.

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States look toward expanded gambling for revenue

Long after the recession ends, one of its most visible legacies is likely to be more places - and ways - for Americans to gamble. Pennsylvania lawmakers in October ended the nation's longest state budget standoff by counting on some $250 million in revenue that would be raised by legalizing and taxing casino table games, such as blackjack, craps and roulette.

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Nightmare scenarios haunt states

One question keeps coming up as governors and legislators grapple with a seemingly never-ending stream of gloomy budget news that keeps getting worse: How bad can it get? The answer, according to experts and a look through history, is probably that it could get worse than it has been in a generation - maybe even a lifetime - but not catastrophic.

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State budgets: $28 billion short this year

Thirty-six states face budget shortfalls totaling $28 billion in the fiscal year that began just five months ago, according to a new 50-state report. The assessment predicts another $56 billion in shortfalls across 35 states next fiscal year and $69 billion in shortfalls across 23 states the year after that.

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Highway money on states’ radar

States are hoping that a job-creating initiative to be outlined by President Obama on Dec. 8 will include billions of dollars for infrastructure projects. Meanwhile, recession-worn Michigan may be ineligible for $475 million in federal highway money next year because it can't find $84 million in matching state funds.

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After furloughs, states mull permanent cuts

Moving from furloughs of state employees to more permanent downsizing, states are girding for the deepest workforce cuts yet when they hammer out their fiscal 2011 budgets next year. In preparation, many are taking stock of every position in state government to determine what effect job cuts and the possible elimination of whole departments will have on revenues, expenses and the quality of government services.

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