How would you Close the State Budget Gap?
In today’s Projo, Scott Mayerowitz reports on Rhode Island’s projected $60,000,000 budget shortfall. The leadership of the legislature is ducking for cover when the subject of closing the budget gap comes up…
Both [State Senator Steven] Alves and [State Representative Stephen] Costantino said it was up to [Governor Donald] Carcieri to propose cuts first. The governor is required in January to submit a supplemental budget for the current year and a proposed budget for next year.
Carcieri has traditionally turned first to the state’s social services when looking for cuts. In the past, he tried to drop people earlier from the state’s welfare rolls if they did not carry through on employment and training plans. Carcieri has also proposed reducing the number of people eligible for state-subsidized childcare. Lawmakers have generally restored his cuts.
Costantino would not speak yesterday about theoretical cuts, but warned: “It has been the tradition of this Assembly to protect children, to protect seniors, and that will always be a focus of this Assembly.”
Governor Carcieri “traditionally” turns first to social services because that is where the largest chunk of state money is spent — $1,228,004,544 out of $3,069,500,007 (40%) to be exact. Here’s every fiscal-year 2006 $100,000,000-plus line-item as listed in the “expenditures from general revenues” table in the state budget program supplement (warning: this link takes you to a honking-big pdf file)…
|Education — Elementary and Secondary||$837,030,846|
|Human Services — Human Services||$768,915,978|
|General Government — Administration||$406,451,928|
|Human Services — Mental Health, Retardation, & Hospitals||$238,267,015|
|Education — Higher Education – Board of Governors||$182,208,913|
|Human Services — Children, Youth, and Families||$161,640,261|
|Public Safety — Corrections||$146,602,300|
These seven items, by themselves, account for almost 90% of the state budget. Unless the state is willing to drastically cut/zero-out a whole bunch of smaller programs, reconciling the $60,000,000 shortfall has to come from either cuts to the above list or from tax increases.