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Spring 2012

Big budget cuts still loom large

by County and City Employee staff on February 14, 2012

The big budget cuts — the ones that will have the strongest impact on local government employees — still lie ahead.

The State Legislature, halfway through its 60-day regular session, has so far done little to eliminate the $2 billion budget shortfall it faces. The 30-day special session during December failed to tackle it effectively, achieving only $480 million in cuts. The other 75 percent of the budget will be the toughest to tackle.

“They will probably leave the heavy lifting to the end of the session,” predicts Council 2 Deputy Director Pat Thompson.

“There are likely to be devastating cuts to the services that the state provides. The cuts will be greater at the state level than the local government level. But they will come.

“Funds will be reduced for the services that our members provide, including painful eliminations of social and health services and education.

“There is no good news. It is just a question of how bad it will be.”

Democrats are looking to avoid drastic cuts by closing tax loopholes that have not delivered jobs as promised and seeking a half-a-cent increase in the sales tax.

Most Republicans prefer an all-cuts budget that they believe will create efficiencies not found in the last four years of budget cuts. Among these are contracting out public-sector jobs, cutting wages and benefit to public-sector workers and eliminating public-sector pension rights.

“Whatever the final outcome, it won’t be good,” Thompson says. “The reality of our nation’s financial problems hits government later than the private sector.

“Even when the general economic news appears better, little in the budget news seems positive.”