State Budget Cuts - From the Ridiculous to the Tragic

A random Internet search reveals the extent of state budget cuts -- from the ridiculous to the horrific, from frugal penny-pinching to measures that may be penny-wise but are ultimately pound-foolish.

Following are some random samples of an Internet search listing some of the cost-cutting measures being taken by states now experiencing the worst fiscal crisis since World War II. Some of the cost-cutting efforts are humorous (unscrewing every third light bulb) and some are examples of reasonable frugality (reusing stationary, eliminating the gold stamp on business cards). Others show the real human cost -- from seniors who cannot afford to go to a state park, isolated rural residents who will no longer be served by the bookmobile, or kids who will no longer have the benefit of learning a foreign language from a real teacher, to stories with more tragic consequences.

  • Baltimore, Maryland. Cutting drug treatment funding from $1 million to $400,000 for Baltimore City. Currently 26,000 people who are addicted to drugs are receiving treatment. Estimates are that 40,000 people in Baltimore could benefit from treatment. The budget cut will eliminate 500 treatment slots, even though $1 in treatment costs saves $7 in other costs.
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Possible layoffs of 500 city employees. This includes police officers, emergency medical technicians, and school crossing guards. Anticipating closures of swimming pools, senior centers, and city recreation centers.
  • The University of Kansas. Trash from non-classroom buildings will be picked up only twice a week instead of daily, eliminating 12 housekeeping staff. Other efforts and more layoffs are in effect so the University can continue its operations.
  • Minnesota Zoo. Farm animals at the Minnesota Zoo are being "downsized" due to budget cuts. They were going to be sent off to slaughter, but will now be adopted.
  • Dakota County, Minnesota. Proposing to take 100 families off of day-care subsidies in spite of state objections.
  • Virginia. Closures and limited services at state parks.
  • Denver, Colorado. Worsening of prison conditions that are already drastically over-crowded and short-staffed. Cuts in diversion program funding. Eliminating hot lunches for prisoners.
  • Hawaii. Cutting library hours and discontinuing the bookmobiles that serve rural areas.
  • Oregon. A 36- year-old Portland man went into a coma after running out of his anti-seizure medicine. He was unable to renew his prescription because he was one of the people cut from the Oregon Health Plan due to budget shortfalls.
  • Cherokee County, South Carolina. Replacing foreign language teachers with videotapes.
  • Missouri. The governor has ordered every third light bulb in state buildings to be unscrewed.
  • Indiana. The state is negotiating corporate sponsorship of state parks. How does "Coca-Cola Trail" sound?
  • Utah. Eliminating free park admission to state parks for seniors.
  • Illinois. Requiring Medicaid patients on the antidepressant Zoloft to get double strength prescriptions and split the pills in half.

For state-by-state samples of education cuts, see the National Education Association's listing and the Fair Taxes for All listing. For accounts of the human toll of state budget cuts, see the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) article "Budget Cuts: The Human Toll." For a perspective from a New York City social worker, see "The human toll of State and City Budget Cuts: Testimony from sixty social workers, colleagues and consumers." For more general information about state budget cuts see the Brookings-Urban Tax Policy Center "Biting the Budget Bullet" commentary and the Christian Science Monitor's "'Broke' States skimp on pens, lightbulbs" article.

back to Blog