This past weekend’s “This American Life” had a powerful report out of Albany on New York state’s budget crisis. It featured a lengthy interview with Lieutenant Gov. Richard Ravitch, a veteran of the state’s, and New York City’s, budget morass of the 1970s. Also featured is a surprisingly sympathetic Gov. David Paterson, who describes “Planet Albany” as a place where “there is no gravity and light bends right around the capitol” and where debt ceilings miraculously become debt floors.
To keep state government’s lights on, weekly emergency financing bills are being passed--the 12th such bill is set for a vote today--to which Paterson has managed to attach about 70 percent of his annual budget.
Of course New York, along with California, is an extreme example of the budget crises nearly every state--required to have balanced budgets--is facing as they look to Washington for more money for teachers and Medicaid as last year’s stimulus money dries up.
As Time magazine notes in this excellent national roundup of state budget woes, it’s good to be North Dakota right about now.