Monday, October 31, 2011

Stay Balanced

Last week the Delaware State Education Association was host to a briefing by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) on the national economic picture and the impact on state budgets. Jon Shure, the director of State Fiscal Strategies for CBPP, was the presenter.

Three immediate thoughts came to me during the presentation. First, things are bad out there, really bad. Second, as bad as they are here, they are worse in most other states. Third, in Delaware we used a balanced approach, a combination of revenue and budget cuts, to deal with the worst of the crisis. This is exactly the approach recommended by the nation's top policy wonks at CBPP.

One startling fact in the presentation dealt with the loss of public employee jobs nationwide:

In case the chart is a little difficult to read, that's 646,000 jobs since August of 2008. Those job losses represent a major stepping away from public services by many states. While the loss of 646,000 jobs alone means a mighty blow to the economy, consider that these are jobs that support the foundation of the greater economy: Education, public safety, transportation, and health care to name just a few.

The loss of public services ripples throughout the economy. Allow me a simple example. If I need to renew my license and I wait for 3 hours instead of the usual 30 minutes, that's a residual economic loss (my time) from the economy, in addition to the laid off DMV employees and their spending power.

We live in an increasingly complex society with a complex and interdependent economy. Correspondingly, it takes a complex and comprehensive network of public services to provide the foundation. States who go too far down this path of smaller government, fewer public employees, and less public investment are borrowing against their economic future.

As we enter our fourth consecutive tough economic year, we should maintain our balanced approach, and keep Delaware a great place to live, work, and raise a family.

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