Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Is it de ja vu all over again regarding state budget deficit? I certainly hope not.

An interesting article by Mitch Pearlstein of the Center of the American Experiment was written in April 2008 six months before our financial meltdown. It compared the then projected state deficit of $925 million dollars as child's play compared to the 1981 deficit. Of course, things have changed a lot since that was written. The article does a good job of showing how the 1981 crisis dragged on and on. That shouldn't be allowed to happen this time around.
On April 2, 1981, a headline in the Minneapolis Star sounded an increasingly familiar refrain: "Revenues fall short, set Quie scrambling." A week later, a headline in the Daily Journal in Fergus Falls made the new damage explicit: "Quie must cut $503 million."

And a week after that, a headline in the St. Paul Pioneer Press a described the governor's new attempt to stop the bleeding: "Quie asks tax hike, more cuts, curbs on city-county spending."

Six weeks later the Pioneer Press was able to announce: "Quie, DFL agree on sales, income tax hikes." The number, more precisely, was $555 million worth.

"Quie likely to call 3rd special session," read a headline in an October edition of the Star.

A November headline in the Star blared: "Deficit put at $860 million; Quie calls for special session."

A little under three weeks after that, a story in the Dispatch opened: "Gov. Al Quie today recommended reductions of more than $775 million in state spending... ." The year ended with Lori Sturdevant writing in the Tribune that the governor's "hard-line opposition to an increase in state income taxes appeared to soften a bit Monday. ..."
I think this budget crisis is an opportunity to get somethings right if spending isn't increased. It's the only way to force the legislature to do things differently. For instance, many state education mandates on public schools should be eliminated and school choice initiatives instituted which will give parents additional options and reduce public costs by enabling some kids to attend nonpublic/government schools.

Revamping our health care programs so participants have more responsibility for controlling costs. And cutting back social programs which simply hand out condoms or pay other people to take care of people's children, e.g. early childhood programs.

These will be extremely difficult decisions to make and will mean the support some people have grown to expect from government won't be there. But it's vital we change the way things are done so people's expectations are changed and the community, friends and family step to the plate instead of simply passing on these problems to the state.

No comments: