State Governments Should Stop Spending, Start Cutting

Article excerpt

If you live in one of the 35 states facing budget deficits this year or next, you have heard a litany of explanations from officials about factors beyond their control.

The recession is blamed; it& drained away& revenues.

You, as a citi- zen, have been accused of voting against needed& taxes during the 1980s.

The courts are blamed for forcing more to be spent on corrections and education. Uncle Sam comes in for his licks, too. He cut federal aid during the 1980s, it is claimed, while simultaneously mandating additional responsibilities and expenditures by the state governments. Depending upon the state involved, you may have heard other accusations as well, some of which might have some degree of merit but none of which cut to the heart of the matter. The reason states are broke, says Stephen Moore, is because they have just spent too much. Elected officials, he says, vastly expanded budgets for existing agencies and launched new programs in new policy areas during the 1980s. Moore is director of fiscal policy studies at the Cato Institute, which, because of its very special economic and political agenda _ getting government off the backs of people _ may lose credibility sometimes. Still, Moore gets his evidence from recognized sources, including state budgets and other official documents that are a matter of record rather than of propaganda, so he can hardly be ignored. The financial troubles of states, he declares, can be traced directly to the inability of state officials to "just say no." Between 1980 and 1989, he says, state expenditures rose by 104 percent, or almost twice as much as inflation. And in the past two years alone, he adds, spending has risen by 15 percent. With few exceptions, he continues, the states with the most severe deficits today are those that experienced rapid economic and revenue growth over the past decade _ but then allowed spending to grow even faster. …


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