Monday, January 04, 2010

No stateside silver lining

Days ahead look dark for services states provide their citizenry:
Across the nation, [state] budgets are already lean after several rounds on the chopping block. And unless lawmakers increase taxes or fees — unpopular moves in an election year — most will need to cut even more as they grapple with the steepest decline of tax receipts on record. Services ranging from higher education to programs for the elderly could be in jeopardy.

The crunch could also mean new tolls to fund road projects, more prisoners being released early to trim corrections budgets, and the end of welfare programs that don't bring federal matching dollars ....

States' budget problems are the result of plunging real estate values and home sales; unemployment, which is taking a toll on personal income tax collections; and plunging sales tax collections .... states this year will look to make deeper, more, sustained cuts that could fundamentally change what services government provides. Whole programs could be eliminated. Layoffs will take the place of furloughs.
This prospect casts a pall on any rosy predictions about filling coffers up with future revenues from sales and tourist taxes. The recession renders such predictions moot. We should be trying to save what we have rather than start ambitious new projects based on wishful thinking.

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