The Most Budget-Strapped States

  • Desperately In Need of Money

    Many American households are having a tough time budgeting in this economic downturn, but nothing compares to the tough decisions that governors and legislators have been forced to make while resolving state budget crises. Forty-six states were projected to have budget deficits in 2010, but since they are prohibited by federal law from running into the red, some leaders have had to resort to desperate measures to make their budgets work. Governors across the country gearing up for re-election this year will undoubtedly have to contend with the fallback from these decisions. Here are some of the most controversial budget cuts that states either have already made or are currently considering. Photo Credit: stuartpilbrow
    Canceling Elections
  • Canceling Elections

    Earlier this year, one of Hawaii’s congressional representatives announced that he’d be prematurely leaving office to run for governor. Ordinarily, a special election would be held to ensure that the Hawaiians in his district continue to have representation in government. But these are not ordinary times. According to the Associated Press, “Budget cuts have left the state Office of Elections with about $5,000 to last until July, with a special election costing nearly $1 million.” So the state had to forfeit holding an election. Other cuts on our list may impact people in more personal ways, but nothing is more extreme than sacrificing an election – and arguably, our democracy – in order to satisfy a tight budget. Photo Credit: IntangibleArts
    The Four-Day School Week
  • The Four-Day School Week

    In order to cut money from school budgets, some states are considering switching to a four-day school week. Teachers would get pay cuts and schools would reduce their overall maintenance costs. Schools in Hawaii and some in Kansas have already adopted this schedule. Of course, it’s not so great for parents, who still work the full 40-hour week. Although, one state in the country has actually made that change too. State employees in Utah now have a 4-day work week. The goal of this switch is mainly to reduce energy costs. Unfortunately, the irony of the situation is that if the budget crisis is bad enough to cut employee work time, then it probably requires government employees to work harder and longer to fix it. Photo Credit: Travelin' John
    Eliminating the 12th Grade?
  • Eliminating the 12th Grade?

    Utah has a $700 million budget deficit, and they are apparently willing to consider doing crazy things to patch it up. One state senator recently proposed making the 12th grade optional, a plan which he argues could save more than $100 million. Apparently, someone let the senator know about senioritis and the laziness that getting into college brings to the graduating class.  But where exactly would all those 17-year-olds go, if not to high school? Photo Credit: wonderjunkie
    Prisoners Let Go Early
  • Prisoners Let Go Early

    In order to cope with their budget shortfalls, some states are trying to close down jails, while others like Illinois, Rhode Island, Oregon and Washington have launched initiatives to make it easier for inmates to get out of jail sooner. This has been restricted to “non-violent” prisoners who only pose a minimal risk to society. But still, when state governments start encouraging more known criminals to be placed on the streets, you know something is wrong. Oh well, everything will be fine as long as we have a thriving police force. Oh wait… Photo Credit: Matti Mattila
    Firing the Police
  • Firing the Police

    Unfortunately, police departments are some of the more common victims of budget cuts in many states. According to one CNN story, police in Lincoln, Neb. have been forced to cut back service, meaning they will no longer respond to some medical emergencies. Meanwhile, stations in Texas and Maryland were forced to leave positions unfilled. Photo Credit: conner395
    Hospital Cuts
  • Hospital Cuts

    There’s probably no worse PR move for politicians than to announce they are cutting funds to hospitals. But many have been forced to do just that. Children’s hospitals in Tallahassee, Fla. have seen their budgets slashed and cuts in Tennessee could force some hospitals to close all together. Photo Credit: Rosser321
    Ending Job Creation Programs
  • Ending Job Creation Programs

    New Jersey’s governor recently proposed spending cuts on a number of state services, including a job creation program that gives grants to companies that hire new employees. I guess jobs just aren’t that big of a priority… Photo Credit: Photomish Dan
    California Gives Up
  • California Gives Up

    No state in the country has fared worse financially than California. The government actually had to hand out IOUs to businesses and taxpayers instead of money. At the beginning of this year, Governor Schwarzenegger unveiled his budget, which was quickly labeled “draconian” by the media. “Under the cuts, more than 200,000 children will lose eligibility for health insurance. Prisoner health care, services for immigrants and in-home care, schools and state aid to local public transportation would see funding slashed,” Reuters reports. The state has also been forced to cut funding for programs like mammogram screenings for low-income women. Photo Credit: Wikimedia.org
    Libraries
  • Libraries

    Yes, libraries still exist, but maybe not for long. In Ohio, libraries are taking a big cut due to the budget crisis. Library hours of operation are being reduced and there is no money to buy new books and other materials. Ohio is not alone. Many communities in Massachusetts are also seeing their library budgets get slashed. Photo Credit: victoriapeckham
    No Internet For You
  • No Internet For You

    A tight budget in Missouri has forced the state to scrap plans to expand Internet service to rural areas. So apparently they have to live in the dark ages a little longer. Photo Credit: codiceinternet
    Canceling Christmas
  • Canceling Christmas

    As we reported previously, many cities across the country, from Austin, Texas to Chicago, were forced to downsize their Christmas celebrations last year due to budget woes. Even though this seems like a devious plot by the Grinch, but it was actually local governments that made the call. Photo Credit: alancleaver_2000
    Strange New Taxes
  • Strange New Taxes

    Scrapping a program is only one way to help make up for a big budget deficit. Many states have also instituted new and unusual taxes to raise revenue. Two that stand out are Maine’s program to tax candy and Kentucky’s tax on cell phone ringtones. Photo Credit: rwkvisual
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