How Is Your State Doing?

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Lori Grange, deputy director of the Pew Center on the States, talks about the new Pew report on how residents view their state's severe budget challenges. 


Lori Grange

Comments [17]

Anne Greene from Fayetteville, Arkansas

I'm in Northwest Arkansas, and we are doing well comparatively. The unemployment rate is around 7%. The state cut taxes on groceries two years ago. Our state budget numbers are coming in on target. We consistently rank low in terms of income, but also enjoy a low cost of living generally. (We do have severe poverty in the Delta region.) We have two huge corporations hq-ed here - Tyson Foods and Wal-Mart, and the flagship university U of A, which has helped with regional economic stability. Our foreclosures are still a problem, but we don't seem to have the extreme problems of other near-by areas like Memphis, TN.

Not perfect here - but feel better off than many other places, especially outside of the mid-west.

Oct. 06 2010 11:20 AM
state employee from Manhattan

I'm tired of hearing complaints about what state employee pensions cost taxpayers and how we will retire young and live a life of luxury. I will retire at 66 when social security kicks in, after 23 years in state government, because I couldn't possibly live on my pension. Even then I will have to work part time and perhaps have to leave New York City.

The state contributes NOTHING, not one penny, to my pension account. The money is deducted from my salary -- which has always been considerably lower than in the private sector -- and invested by the fund. The problem is that often the investment decisions have been poor, and market declines affect the fund, which is essentially a guaranteed annuity, just like all other savings choices.

Teachers, firefighters, police, health workers, and other government employees choose public service over private gain. For the most part, they work hard for less money and for the satisfaction of actually contributing something to a civilized society. All of the people vilifying public servants should calculate what they would live on without their 401Ks and IRAs and real estate and other assets that public employees cannot afford.

Oct. 06 2010 10:47 AM
CGrant from Manhattan

There is little education given on the direct link between taxes and public services. Of those of us who were taught out it, we learned the link from our parents. When schools abandoned "civics" as part of the curriculum, the government lost its informed cheerleaders. Many of us will gladly pool our money together through taxes to pay for services that keep us alive and off the street.

Oct. 06 2010 10:42 AM
Josh from Brooklyn

One big reason why people don't understand or value how tax dollars are spent is that they have virtually no opportunity to engage with the budgeting process, to learn about the difficult choices policy-makers have to face. Over 1000 local and state governments around the world have started to address this problem through "participatory budgeting." This process lets residents directly decide how to spend part of the public budget, through a series of meetings and voting. In the US, Chicago Alderman Joe Moore used this approach to let residents decide his $1.3 million ward budget this past year, as a pilot project. Moore will be speaking in NYC October 28th and 29th, for those who want to learn more. You can also find more info at

Oct. 06 2010 10:35 AM
Al from New Jersey

Chris Christie is an embarassment to the state - a governor who does not do his homework to prepare solutions to problems, says there is no money without addressing revenue levels or long-term budgets, screws up applications for aid, is intentionally divisive, worries more about breaking unions than maintaining high standards for education, etc. So what about the tunnel? The governor has yet to comment on alternative possible financing for the tunnel because his staff has not the homework to assess alternative financing. We should expect more from a good Governor. For example, what about selling a bond that pays dividends after the trains start running and collecting fares? That could be virtually not charge to New Jersey current revenues.

Oct. 06 2010 10:32 AM
RJ from Brooklyn

It seems as though the survey is ahistorical, and the idea that people want more for less comes from a longtime drumbeat of "waste." No doubt there is. But people are complaining about a takeaway of services they had, and an increase in things not officially "taxes"--transit etc.
What's not mentioned is that we were able to pay (better) for these services when the upper income tax bracket brought in higher revenues. That is the one question that it does not seem was asked: It was posited as reduced services versus average/low-wage worker tax increases. Yes, people want waste cut, and this is (legitimately) fed by stories for fraud. But those are not the primary costs of higher taxes. The loss of tax revenue, with the reduction in upper-income taxes--and the resistance to modest increases by billionaires like Mayor Bloomberg--put average New Yorkers between a rock and a hard place. Before the "crash" Bloomberg thought he could pay for his pet civic projects by increased transit fees, water fees, parking fines, etc., as well as the noblesse oblige of his wealthy friends, such as Gates, but that's no longer the case. Despite the essential need for consistent revenue, revenue that doesn't wax and wane like the "market" or "hospitality industry," he will not increase his class's income taxes. That is the sad fate of New York's essential services.

Oct. 06 2010 10:31 AM
amalgam from Manhattan by day, NJ by night

I agree with the caller: It's not a tax paradox to want to pay for ONLY what ones wants when one's only objective is to "do for self."

It part of our choice-based society where the consumer wants a la carte options to select from. For instance; "My kids aren't in school anymore. Why should I pay such high property taxes? I only want to pay for my kids when they're in school, not other people's kids."

Of course, if tax cuts lead to more poorly educated kids in their community, then people get upset about the functioning of that community. This way of thinking is often short-sighted, although it's up to each official and to figure out if they have been efficient in spending as possible. That must be done on a case-by-case basis.

Oct. 06 2010 10:30 AM
Dorian from Manhattan

Is there any evidence that government has increased its productivity and efficiency? We have evidence that the private sectors is constantly doing so. Perhaps that's what people are saying

Oct. 06 2010 10:23 AM

some states take aid from the feds NY/NJ/CT gives aid to poor red states

Oct. 06 2010 10:23 AM

Maybe the states should make the 20-30% cuts, so all those who think this is a solution can see first hand the folly of what they advocate.

Oct. 06 2010 10:22 AM

well said, Peter!

Oct. 06 2010 10:21 AM
Betsy from Amenia, NY

My concern is waste in Medicaid. NY's Office for People with Developmental Disabilities spends $4600 per developmentally disabled person per day (that's $1.7 million per person per year) -- 4 times as much as the next most expensive rates in the whole country! The reason NY makes its rates so high? Medicaid matches every dollar NY says it spends. The promise of the Medicaid match has turned the state's developmental centers into veritable cash registers, where $1.2 billion in state spending in fiscal year 2009 "generated" another $1.2 billion from the feds. See the Poughkeepsie Journal's series of articles about this scandalous waste:

Oct. 06 2010 10:20 AM
John from Inwood

I have nothing against paying taxes -- really -- but isn't this a false choice? The state and city budgets are larded with so-called "discretionary" spending. While many of these expenditures are no doubt legitimate, I would have to be convinced that many, if not most, serve little overall purpose other than to endear incumbents to special interests and ensure perpetual re-election.

Oct. 06 2010 10:19 AM

There's a story in the news about a town somewhere that made fire protection contingent on paying a subscription fee. So a person's home burned down as fire fighters watched because he had not paid the fee for service. If this becomes more wide spread, will people begin to see the use of a tax base for covering these basic services? Of course libertarians think it's fine that public services should be privatized for those willing to pay.

Oct. 06 2010 10:18 AM
CL from New York

First things first. Until or unless the cesspool that is the NY state legislature is cleaned up, any increase in state taxes should be ruled out.

Oct. 06 2010 10:16 AM

It's true. They're always talking about lowering federal taxes, but that just puts the burden on local governments, who then raise whatever they can.

Oct. 06 2010 10:08 AM

people are always complaining about property taxes but they never ask for smaller LOCAL governments. what gives?

Oct. 06 2010 09:59 AM

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