What Are the Duties of State Government?

by Sara Harvey
There can be power struggles between a state government, which provides a large share of education funding, and local school boards, which are independent.

There can be power struggles between a state government, which provides a large share of education funding, and local school boards, which are independent.

States shoulder the duties to administer roads, education, public safety, justice and more, as decided by voters, state lawmakers, and the state constitution. States take on all the powers not specifically granted to the U.S. Federal government, according to the 10th Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Transportation

State governments are charged with the duty to make sure the roads under their care are well maintained. The roads and highways in each state are divided between local, state and federal governments. States build and maintain roads and highways through their local state Department of Transportation. These state transportation departments oversee the building of new roads, and the maintenance of intrastate transportation for the U.S. Department of Transportation. The states are also responsible for public safety, as in the case of state troopers, highway patrol, and Texas Rangers.

Implement Federal Mandates

If the federal government issues a mandate, it is the duty of the state to make plans and implement them to fulfill the mandate. Examples of mandates are if the federal government requires states to cut air pollution, or requires that a state’s public transportation meet particular safety standards. The federal government is required by law to fund the mandated programs.

Education

State governments are responsible for the education of their residents. States have freedom in administering the nation’s public education system, which receives the lion’s share of state and local money. The nation’s 15,000 school districts are governed by elected school boards. The power balance between a state government, which provides a large share of education funding, and local school boards, which are independent and make final decisions for how a district operates, turn into power struggles in some states.

Collecting Revenue

State governments also have the duty of drawing funding to operate its programs. States collect insurance trust revenue from administering retirement, unemployment compensation, and other benefit programs. States also collect fees, such as tolls, and lottery ticket sales, hospital charges and liquor sales. States levy sales taxes for consumer goods, at 4 to 8 percent, as well as income taxes. The ratio of state income from consumer sales taxes as compared to income taxes varies from state to state. Some states add a “sin tax” on alcohol or cigarettes, while 17 states operate state-run liquor stores. Other states levy inheritance taxes, and administer utility services for income.

Judicial System

State governments are also charged to operate a state judicial system. State supreme courts focus on correcting the errors made in lower state courts, passed up through an appeals system, and don't try cases. The decision made by the state supreme court, however, can be appealed to the United States Supreme Court, when the question is raised as to whether the state court acted in line with the U.S. Constitution. Each state is is free to structure their court system, and to decide whether judges are elected or appointed, in accord with the individual state constitutions.

About the Author

Based in New York City, Sara Harvey has written about the environment, city planning, health and lifestyles since 1994. A former newspaper reporter, she now writes freelance full time. Her work has appeared in "Boho," a New York-based green fashion magazine, and several humor, parenting and business publications. Harvey has a bachelor's degree in print journalism.

Photo Credits

  • public funding issues image by Kelly Young from Fotolia.com