Our local pool is closed some days due to city budget cuts, the nearby city of Oakland is laying off more police officers a week after a major riot, and I'm not watering my backyard. That last one is more to save me money and the state some water in a drought. But spending cuts are the reason the road medians in my town aren't being kept up (that said, they look far better than my backyard). Look around, and you're likely to deal firsthand with federal and state budget cuts as they trickle down to your neighborhood.
U.S. News & World Report''s pain index takes a look at places like my hometown, where residents are spending more on taxes yet seeing less in services. It takes into account state tax increases and spending cuts in each state since 2009 and notes that over the past three years, states have cut their budgets by nearly $50 billion -- the biggest reversal of state spending since the Great Depression -- and raised taxes by another $30 billion or so. All of these measures have been taken despite the $250 billion in stimulus aid that the federal government doled out to the states in 2009.
Alaska led the list with a total "pain" per person of $1,265 since 2009. Taxes went down $3 per person, but spending cuts totaled $1,268 per person. Alaska is unique because it doesn't have a statewide income or sales tax, and earns most of its revenue from royalties paid on oil extraction. The state has cut education spending and has a statewide hiring freeze.
California is probably a better example of what's happening around the country. The state came in second with $855 worth of "pain" per person, due to $312 in new taxes and $543 in spending cuts, much of it in education. The state has also experienced increases in sales and income taxes, new fees on motor vehicles and reduced funding for mass transportation, public assistance and public health care -- and that's just a few of the examples. The governor wants to cut state employee pay by 60% to the federal minimum wage.
The complete list is an interesting read, especially for those who live in North Dakota, which is at the bottom of the list. Here are the top 10 states with the most "pain" per person:
- Alaska: $1,265
- California: $855
- Wyoming: $698
- Rhode Island: $619
- New Jersey: $602
- Delaware: $453
- Hawaii: $444
- South Carolina: $475
- Utah: $437
- Oklahoma: $470