Economic realities are slapping states in the face as they come to terms with the fact that they can’t afford costly government programs amid declining revenues. Though many states are on a path toward economic ruin, some legislators in Missouri are taking heed and cutting spending.
The Associated Press reports that a Missouri Senate Appropriations Committee voted last week to eliminate state funding for several government programs, reducing state expenditures by $506 million.
The committee’s actions are incredibly significant, given the difficulty that comes with eliminating government programs, once enacted. The AP notes that some of the Republican Missouri senators “have resorted to quoting an observation made nearly a half-century ago by Ronald Reagan”:
“Government programs, once launched, never disappear,” the future president said in a 1964 speech in support of Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater. “Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we’ll ever see on this earth.”
Other states, though, aren’t finding as much success in addressing their budget shortfalls.
New York has a $9.2 billion budget deficit and is passing a series of emergency spending bills this week to keep the government running, according to Buffalo Business Reports. It doesn’t have funds to pay for union salary increases or construction projects, and the state is considering a mix of “sin tax” hikes for cigarettes and sodas, new borrowing, and cuts to education.
Massachusetts might bet on resort casinos and slot machines to solve their budget woes, despite gambling being rejected there seven times in the last 14 years. And some 2,500 miles away, Arizona is witnessing a bare-knuckle fight over a plan to raise sales tax from 5.6% to 6.6% to cover the state’s massive budget gap. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer is campaigning for the tax increase and telling crowds, “The checkbook is overdrawn, we’ve maxed out the credit cards, we’ve mortgaged the house.”
It’s the same story across the fruited plain. What’s causing the problem? The Pew Center on the States cites symptoms including: major drops in revenue, growing budget gaps, increasing unemployment, high foreclosure rates, a supermajority requirement for state legislatures to pass budget bills (which includes making budget cuts or raising taxes), and troubles managing long-term fiscal matters and budgetary processes.
The good news for Missourians is that some of their legislators have the willpower to make the cuts they need to get the state’s budget on track. Other states might not be so lucky.