Senior Director of State Policy Initiatives
Most states rang in fiscal year 2012 on a sour note this month, enacting unnecessarily deep spending cuts that will harm residents ranging from schoolchildren to seniors and weaken economic growth.
A major report we released today finds that at least 38 of the 47 states with new budgets are cutting K-12 education, higher education, health care, or other key public services for 2012. While states continue to face rising numbers of children enrolled in public schools, students enrolled in universities, and seniors eligible for health and long-term care services, most states (37 of 44 states for which data are available) plan to spend less on services in 2012 than they spent in 2008, adjusted for inflation — in some cases, much less.
State lawmakers no doubt faced tough decisions this year, with revenues still far below pre-recession levels and emergency federal aid all but expired. Still, our review shows that the cuts are unnecessarily harmful, unbalanced, and counterproductive.
Here’s what we found:
Just a few states took a balanced approach to addressing shortfalls. Five states — Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Nevada, and Illinois —raised new revenues to go along with spending cuts to balance the budget.
The cuts-only approach that most states have taken will slow the recovery and weaken the nation’s economy over the long term. State and local governments already have shed 577,000 jobs since August 2008; another round of cuts will lead to further job loss in the months ahead. The cuts will also lead states to cancel contracts with vendors, reduce payments to businesses and nonprofits that provide services, and cut benefit payments to individuals — all steps that remove demand from the economy. And, by diminishing the quality of elementary and high schools, making college less affordable, and reducing residents’ access to health care, states threaten to make the U.S. economy less competitive in coming decades.