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Bail Out the States NOW

April 20, 2020

I have read several articles about budget shortfalls for FY 2020 and the cuts states are facing in order to balance their budgets for the current year. And as FY 2021 unfolds in states, towns, and school districts it is clear that the revenue streams assumed when budgets were formulated in February are unlikely to materialize as the coming fiscal year unfolds. It doesn’t take a Ph.D in economics to see that a slow motion train wreck will occur unless States get a revenue infusion and it doesn’t require a background in political science to see that safeguards need to be put in place to ensure that the money is spent wisely. And you don’t need to have 29 years of experience as a school superintendent to see who will suffer the most if this doesn’t happen: it will be the children in those districts with the smallest tax bases, the ones who have never full recovered from the 2008 crash, the ones where voters are more and more frustrated with the lack of services they receive from the government.

The Federal Government needs to begin bailing out State governments now. For decades the “trickle down” throes of economics has been accompanied by a trickle down of responsibility and costs. Over time, the states have absorbed more and more responsibilities and gotten less and less revenue from the federal government. At the same time, Governors— particularly GOP governors— have run on tax-cutting platforms that incorporate the “trickle down” theories shifting an increasing amount of responsibilities to local governments. The chickens came home to roost after 2008 when states had to tighten their belts and many communities could not raise their taxes enough to sustain their services. Yes, small businesses need to be bailed and and Yes, individuals need stipends to tide them over. But it should be abundantly clear to federal legislators that States, too, need to be helped. And states, in turn, need to allocate the resources they get to the communities who are still reeling from the housing meltdown in 2008.

If state’s are NOT helped, they will be forced to make some very tough decisions as we are witnessing in reading the local accounts of New Hampshire and Vermont. Both states are drawing on their “rainy day” funds to get through this year and Vermont, which does a better job of thinking ahead, is contemplating the closure of its colleges and vocational schools to avoid revenue shortfalls. The 2021 revenues are very unlikely to materialize and when school districts and state agencies begin planning for 2022 they are going to face serious revenue shortfalls.

the time is now to address this problem by infusing billions of dollars to states… to wait will be disastrous.

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