Is the damage from budget cuts reality or rhetoric? |

Is the damage from budget cuts reality or rhetoric?

The state’s economy is now officially to the point where we will see if the dire warnings about the damages from budget cuts are rhetoric or reality.

After agencies have cut 14 percent, it comes as no surprise that they will likely be asked to cut more. Just to keep the same level of service, those agencies will need $1.5 billion more over the next two years, due to inflation and federal mandates.

That level of cutting would take some agencies below what directors say is the absolute lowest level they can set and still function adequately.

Director of Corrections Howard Skolnik, for example, said those type of cuts would endanger staff, inmates and the public. We’ve heard similar sentiments from other directors, too, including Health and Human Services Director Mike Willden, and from higher education officials.

As of now, it’s a problem waiting for answers because two likely solutions ” new taxes and finding further efficiencies in conducting state business ” aren’t likely to get us there.

Why is a new tax unlikely? Just look at what the majority of candidates are saying. For example, in the District 40 Assembly race, all three candidates, Bonnie Parnell, Cheryl Lau and John Wagner, have said tax increases are not the answer to the budget crisis.

As for efficiencies, there’s good news and bad news. The governor’s SAGE Commission has identified about $500 million in savings and additional revenue over five years, but that’s a small portion of what is likely to be needed.

This much we know ” the state has to provide a basic level of services when it comes to schools, prisons and many other areas, and there comes a point when no more can be cut.

If we’re there, it’s time for strong leadership and new ideas.