At least we’re not California
Oct 21, 2009
This has been a rough couple of weeks for Iowa. The mucky budget is front and center in the mind of the local media and anyone affiliated with state government. I happen to deal with both, and, I keep coming back to this: At least we’re not California.
Photo © 2009 Stan Brewer
By Shoshana Hebshi
This has been a rough couple of weeks for Iowa. The mucky budget is front and center in the mind of the local media and anyone affiliated with state government.
I happen to deal with both, and, I keep coming back to this: At least we’re not California.
Gov. Culver set a 10 percent across-the-board cut for state government, which means each state-run department must reduce its budget for the year by 10 percent. As a state employee, I have been wondering how this will manifest in my workplace in particular. There will be layoffs come Jan. 1, that is for sure. And the pain will likely continue on into 2011 and 2012.
But, things could be worse.
We could be facing an unprecedented budget crisis, where public services have been slashed to bare bones or nonexistence in some cases. We could be in a situation where the economic foundation of our state is as stable as quicksand, and we find ourselves rapidly sinking into a dark morass that may or may not spit us back out.
As a Californian, I know the cyclical pain of budget cuts. And, now that I am 1,600 miles away, I can only hear and read about what’s going on back in my home state. When we left three years ago to come to Iowa, the writing was on the wall. The California state legislature was continuing a sickening trend of budget stalemates and intractable partisan politics that halted any sense of civil service. The governor was using what political leverage he had to slash funding from the public sector in every line item in the budget he could.
And now things are a disaster. The California State University system—the largest four-year university system in the country—is having such a difficult time keeping its head above water that student and faculty protests are beginning to look a lot like the free speech movement in the 1960s. Academic programs are being cut, and the faculty is taking a furlough to save jobs. And, you can forget about funding for social services for people with disabilities, the poor, the homeless.
I spent some time at Iowa State University today, and the campus seemed relatively unaffected by budget cuts at this time. I know the worst is yet to come, and we may see some protests arise on campus when they start laying off non-tenured faculty and increasing class size (old news in California).
Budget cuts are unnerving. State employees are on pins and needles wondering who will be cut, what services will suffer and what departments will shrink. But, I believe that because of Iowa’s ability to plan ahead and make relatively sound political decisions that are fiscally responsible and appropriate, the state will fare much better than many of the others facing similar realities.
Of course, California is the poster child right now of what not to do. But, perhaps we can look at Iowa as more of a model of some iota of sense and fiscal responsibility. We were handed a lemon from the nationwide economic plunge, and I believe Iowa has the leadership and gumption to weather this storm. Tough times will continue, and I doubt we have seen the worst of it. But, as long as I reflect how bad things could be, I feel just a little bit better about where we are.
Weathering an economic storm and the onset of winter is hard work for http://shebshi.wordpress.com