Over the past two decades, the State Priorities Partnership (SPP) has worked to ensure that states have the resources they need to invest in schools, child care, health care and other services that can help create opportunity, and reduce inequality and poverty. The Partnership—which emerged from conversations between Michael Lipsky, then a senior program officer at the Ford Foundation, and the Washington, DC-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP)—came together in Baltimore last week to celebrate and honor Partnership members past and present, and to strategize at the Center’s 2014 State Fiscal Policy Conference.
Formerly known as the State Fiscal Analysis Initiative, SPP began as collaboration between three national foundations (Ford, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation), the CBPP, and 12 state-based organizations. Five additional national and regional foundations joined the original three members of the SPP funder collaborative and hundreds of state and local partner funders to invest over $20 million per year in the network. Using evidence and analysis—along with smart communications, outreach, and coalition building strategies—the network racked up a series of impressive victories as it grew in size, scope, and impact. The SPP Network contributed to stopping harmful limits on public investment (so-called TABOR amendments) in more than three dozen states over the past decade; helped persuade reluctant lawmakers to expand Medicaid coverage to 6.3 million low-income Americans under the Affordable Care Act, and secured billions of dollars per year of new resources for critical services in states such as Minnesota and California, while helping to block billions of dollars of damaging state tax cuts.
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How has this network remained vibrant over two challenging decades? First of all, the “Partnership” in SPP is more than just than just a slogan: State-based partners, staff at the CBPP, and funders engage in spirited debate and learning that draw on best practices from within and outside the Network. While remaining deeply rooted in analysis and policy advocacy, Partnership organizations’ members now tackle a wider array of issues—including Ford-supported work on immigration and criminal justice reform—that are beyond the network’s original fiscal policy bailiwick. And the Partnership invests in the development of a new, diverse set of leaders through the State Policy Fellowship Program that places recent graduates in state-based organizations. All of this gave those of us gathered Baltimore many reasons to celebrate.