Bills about to come due for state residents
Highways need $3.8 billion more between now and 2014. Schools will need hundreds of millions just to cover enrollment increases this year, and millions more for programs to meet No Child Left Behind standards over the next several years. It will cost more than $200 million just to give a 2 percent raise to state workers, teachers and university employees.
The list goes on and on, and it doesn’t take a mathematician to figure out the state’s $500 million budget surplus amounts to spare change against all the bills coming due. That surplus does little more than cover inflation in existing services.
And if you think state residents will be getting out of this without paying more, whether it’s taxes or fees, you’re probably in for a big surprise. The Legislature will probably need a magician rather than a mathematician to give everyone what they need.
The reality is that there won’t be enough money to do everything. The Blue Ribbon Commission looking to solve the highway infrastructure problems is acutely aware of that, but has its eyes on the same general fund money that pays for schools, prisons and other services.
We’re looking forward to seeing that debate, not to mention the ones over funding for more prison space, mental health programs and increased Medicaid funding, all vital programs.
Ignoring these problems will only lead to larger bills later. In fact, part of the blame for the situation the state finds itself in must fall to legislators who kept increases artificially low for many programs.
It made them look good but, once all the current bills are paid, it may not have saved us any money at all.