Jerry Brown's Budget Plan Not All That Different From 5 Other States' Proposals
California’s $25-billion-and-growing budget deficit and nearly 12 percent unemployment rate are always a hot topic. But this year, it is not the only state government in dire need of a plan to shrink growing deficits and a wizard to get citizens to approve of the plan.
Several states are in similar shape financially, and with new governments taking over and a new year beginning, talk in capitals across the country is focusing on what will be done this year to fix the budget. The 50 states have a combined deficit of about $140 billion for the next fiscal year, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. California, of course, makes up almost a fifth of that dangerously high gap between revenues and expenditures.
DEFICIT: $13 billion
Governor Pat Quinn, the Democrat who took over when former Gov. Rod Blagojevich was impeached in January 2009, was re-elected last November.
He and other Illinois lawmakers are considering: cutting spending, expanding casino gambling and borrowing $15 billion to pay overdue bills. To help fill the budget hole, Democratic legislators approved this week in the final hours of their terms―without a vote to spare―a whooping 67 percent increase in the state's personal income tax from 3 percent to 5 percent.
Side Note: At the end of last month, Illinois was branded by a Moody’s Investors Service study as “[unwilling] to confront a long-term, structural budget deficit” and other critics blame Illinois’ deficit on the state’s long-term habits of borrowing and ignoring the problem. Moody’s forecasts “further financial deterioration,” while James Nowlan, a former member of the Illinois house told Bloomberg.com that he thinks the state has “finally [been] educated that all the one-time adjustments and shenanigans have been pulled and they are now facing the fiscal abyss.”
DEFICIT: $9 billion
Recently elected governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, announced this week that he is cutting his own salary by 5 percent, or about $9,000. It's a paltry sum compared to California Gov. Jerry Brown's office budget cut of about $4.5 million.
In a public statement, Cuomo declared that “change starts at the top and we will lead by example. We can turn the crisis into an opportunity and use this moment to transform government.”
Cuomo and other New York lawmakers are considering: a one-year freeze in state workers’ pay, cutting the salaries of other top state officials, revising the state’s costly Medicaid programs, and creating a commission to reduce the number of state agencies by 20 percent. Two things Cuomo's also promised to do: cap property taxes at 2 percent and not raise any taxes.
DEFICIT: $10.5 billion
Governor Chris Christie, a Republican who was elected in November 2009, has already closed a record $10.7 billion gap by slashing school and municipal aid and skipping a $3 billion pension payment.
He and other New Jersey (the second-wealthiest US state) officials are considering: cutting Medicaid and employee benefits, talking with state workers unions to adjust contracts, and undoing a 9 percent pension increase enacted in 2001, raising the retirement and freezing cost-of-living raises for retirees, and passing a measure requiring state employees to contribute 8.5 percent of salaries towards pensions―a 3 percent increase from current rates.
DEFICIT: $1.4 billion
Governor Jan Brewer, a Republican who became governor in January 2009, wants to cut funding from the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System.
More than half of the current deficit is due to refusal by Arizona voters to let lawmakers raid some voter-approved programs to divert the money to fund other priorities. It's a problem California legislators have had to deal with to a much lesser degree. Because the state agreed not to scale back certain programs, Arizonans can expect more borrowing, more raiding of special funds and more accounting gimmicks, including delaying payment of some bills due this fiscal year to the next year. The state seems to on a slippery path to a nastier deficit.
DEFICIT: $15 billion to $27 billion (liberals and policy analysts are estimating different figures)
Governor Rick Perry, a Republican, who has held the office since 2000, and leaders of the Rebublican-controlled Legislature have sworn to cut spending instead of increasing taxes.
Reach reporter Phoebe Unterman here.