A colleague and I were in a conversation last night with someone thinking about moving to Indiana. My colleague noted–somewhat proudly, I thought–that despite the recession, and unlike so many neighboring states, Indiana has a budget surplus. He attributed that to sound “money management” by the Governor.
This morning’s Ft. Wayne Journal Gazette has a somewhat different take on how that surplus was achieved.
As the paper noted,
The dirty little secret behind Indiana’s budget surplus is exactly how it came to be. Not the bounty of a booming economy but the result of nicks, cuts and downright slashing of programs critical to the safety of vulnerable Hoosiers and to the economic future of all its residents.
The article focused especially on cuts to child services, noting that DCS returned an “astonishing” amount of money to the state at the same time that repeated reports of abuse went un-investigated, and at least six children died.
In a forthcoming article, Morton Marcus notes that Indiana’s unemployment remains among the highest in the country, despite the recovery. He makes the point–so often ignored–that government jobs are, in fact, jobs. When the state lays off workers, cuts teachers, police officers, child protective workers and others, it not only reduces the effectiveness of services we all depend upon (with sometimes tragic results, as the Journal-Gazette article documents), it reduces employment. It reduces the number of people paying taxes, and increases the number of those needing public services.
When times are tough, tough decisions absolutely need to be made. Budgets–at least in Indiana, which has a constitutional provision requiring it–must be balanced.
The question is: how? And at whose expense?