Emerging Trends in State-Local Relations
Beverly A. Cigler
State and local governments are the major service providers in the American political system and play important policymaking roles. The state and local portion of the public sector grew considerably in recent decades as its contribution to the social and economic well-being of the nation increased. The current challenge is to forge a system of governance across all sectors (public, private, and nonprofit) and levels (national, regional, state, local) that can respond creatively to the intertwined challenges of interdependence, fiscal uncertainty, and accelerated economic, technological, social, and political change. 1
"Government" is less important today than the overall "system of governance" that results from the interaction of organizations in policy development and implementation and service delivery across economic regions. Because problems spill over the boundaries of geographic-based local governments, solutions must be sought on a regional basis; watersheds, laborsheds, rural commutersheds, and ecosystems are the new units of organization in which state-local relations often occur. Strong suburbs help cities, but strong cities make suburbs even stronger (e.g., Barnes and Ledebur 1994; Rusk 1993). Intergovernmental relations have shifted substantially toward improving intergovernmental management and intersector relations and management ( Cigler 1996a).
The continuing devolution of responsibilities from the national to state governments is important, as is national devolution's impact on local communities. Changes in state-local relations have received less scrutiny, but may be the overall key to devolution's success. The forces that generate new demands on subnational (state and local) governments and their wide-ranging institutional renewal also merit more attention.
This chapter highlights the macrotrends affecting the state-local governance system and its reshaping. Included are crosscutting concerns such