As Predicted, Irresponsible States Stay Irresponsible, Lobby for Stimulus II



onto Nick Gillespie's post below about the still-fattening state sector vs. the rest of us, you may have seen scare-headlines about California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger threatening to euthanize cripples on live television unless he gets a second bailout:

If Washington does not provide roughly $8 billion in new aid for the state, the governor threatens to severely cut back—if not eliminate—CalWORKS, the state's main welfare program; the In-Home Health Care Services program for the disabled and elderly poor, and two tax breaks for large corporations recently approved by the Legislature, the officials said.

Missing from both that story and others like it are these non-irrelevant numbers: What was the state payroll in crisis-wracked 2009, compared to 2008? Recall that in mid-year, after California voters bitch-slapped the state's political class over the Last Great Budget Fix, the governor was only then proposing a staffing cut of 2 percent.

As both Michael Barone and Business Week's Joe Mysak have detailed this week, statehouse talk of "draconian" payroll cuts should forever be taken with entire rocks of salt. Here's Mysak:

Any expectation that state and local governments would use the worst fiscal crisis since the Great Depression to reduce their biggest expenditures is proving to be wishful thinking. […]

The states have raised taxes and fees, cut programs and services, sold property, borrowed money, raided rainy-day funds, tapped emergency money provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, according to the National Governors Association and National Association of State Budget Officers—and cut a quarter of 1 percent of those on the payroll. […]

Politicians everywhere are talking about layoffs, of course. They have been talking about eliminating jobs, often in threatening tones, since at least January. As the numbers show, for most, it's just talk.

Other cheery California headlines? How about "State spends big on prison health temps," and "Pension crisis about to hit cities and counties"?

And while we're at it, two of our pre-emptive I-told-you-so cover stories from 2009: "Failed States," and "The Next Catastrophe."