Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
For at least 30 cash-strapped states counting on federal stimulus money, the Republican filibuster of the unemployment benefits extension bill in the Senate last week was a stunning blow, forcing state lawmakers into a mad scramble to balance their budgets.
By the way, the "Jan Sham Budget" which is counting on the gimmick of two ballot measures to be approved by voters in November to ostensibly balance the Arizona budget, now has a new deficit hole blown in it thanks to Arizona's twin embarrassments, Sens. Jon Kyl and John McCain. Arizona presently does not have a balanced budget. The Arizona Constitution mandates a balanced budget by July 1. States struggle to pass budgets without stimulus:
[W]ith a new fiscal year just days away in most states, many governors are proposing to make up for the shortfall with tax increases, cuts in essential services and potential layoffs of thousands of public employees.
"I support restraining federal spending, but cutting the only funding designed to help states maintain the very safety-net programs Congress mandates us to preserve will have devastating consequences," California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said in a letter to his state's congressional delegation.
California faces a whopping $19 billion deficit – more than 20 percent of the state's total budget – despite deep cuts that have already been made to many programs. Its new fiscal year begins Thursday, and a budget deal there is nowhere in sight.
Arizona has faced budget deficits for the past two years, and it's the same story for the state's new budget that begins Thursday. State analysts are projecting deficits that range from $368 million to $1.3 billion, even before the spending starts. The size of the deficit hinges on the outcome of two ballot measures in November and whether Congress approves another dose of stimulus dollars.
The federal stimulus program enacted last year is set to expire in December. Much of the money goes to states to provide unemployment insurance and to help offset cuts to education, health care and public safety brought on by the recession.
Congress was poised to extend some funding to states through June 2011, including $35.5 billion for unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless and $16 billion for Medicaid, the public health care program for the poor. But the measure died [as a result of a Republican filibuster] in the Senate earlier this month, blowing a hole in the states' budgets and bouncing thousands of unemployed workers off the rolls.
The stimulus money represents just a fraction of the help states typically receive from the federal government, but it's the kind of targeted relief states count on during a poor economy, when revenue is falling.
The news came as a shock to many state lawmakers, who until recently had been assured the money was virtually certain to come their way. Several governors planned to travel to Washington this week to make their case for the additional aid.
Without the extra money from Washington, states will be forced to divert cash from other programs to shore up Medicaid, which has swelled to a record enrollment during the economic downturn.
The reckless fiscal irresponsibility of Republicans at the state and federal level should result in the voters throwing all of them out of office in November. We can only pray.