News reports this week highlight the devastating cuts in state and local spending in the United States over the past three years. More than 650,000 government jobs have been eliminated since 2009, adding to the jobless rolls and deepening the economic slump in cities and towns around the country.
According to USA Today, state and local spending is down 0.8 percent this year, which is a 2.7 percent drop when adjusted for inflation. The newspaper reports that the austerity being imposed by state and local governments is the most stringent since the early 1980s.
By law, nearly all US states must balance their budgets each year, and the deadline for adoption of such budgets, usually July 1, was once the occasion for political controversy, all-night negotiation sessions, public fist-shaking and even threats of default.
In the recent period, however, Republican and Democratic legislators and governors have had relatively little difficulty in agreeing on cutbacks, and most budgets have been passed on time or even early, as in the case of New York state several months ago.
State officials of both parties, exemplified by New York Democrat Andrew Cuomo, have opposed tax increases on the wealthy. Instead they have secured the cooperation of union leaders to impose drastic concessions on public employees, while cutting basic services and hitting especially hard at education spending. Read more......