On Meet the Press this morning, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) slammed proposed cuts in aid to the states in the stimulus bill, explaining that states are slashing their funding for vital public needs. “That’s the wasteful spending that my colleagues are talking about,” Frank said. “Money to go to the states to stop them from laying off cops and firefighters, money to help keep teachers going. Those are jobs.”
Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) — who began the show by saying that doing nothing would be better than passing this stimulus plan — insisted that states’ budgets are “bloated” and derided Frank’s concerns as “fearmongering,” denying that any teachers, cops, or firefighters would lose their jobs:
To get back to what Congressman Frank said, is that we’re going to be laying off teachers and firefighters. You know, that’s just fearmongering. We’re not going to be doing that in any of the states. … [The states’] budgets are bloated, the federal government’s budget is bloated. What we should be doing is cutting back.
The idea that states’ budgets are “bloated” would certainty be news to them. Forty-three of the 50 states are facing budget shortfalls, adding up to a $47.4 billion gap as of January. And with most states required to balance their budgets, they are slashing spending in, among other areas, education, as the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities reported:
Thirty-Four states have cut education or proposed such cuts because they face massive, devastating budget deficits in this recession. […]
Nearly all states are required to balance their general fund budgets. When large budget deficits develop, education often is cut deeply.
Some examples from the report:
Florida has cut aid to local school districts for the current year by $140 per pupil. South Carolina has cut per-pupil funding by $95 in the current year. Maine has cut K-12 funding about $140 per pupil; this comes on top of education cuts earlier this year that were targeted to reduce specific programs. Georgia’s governor has proposed cutting aid to local school districts for the current year by $115 per pupil, and for the coming fiscal year by $189 per pupil.
California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed a $6 billion cut in education funding. These budget cuts will force districts to halt new teacher hiring, delay new school construction, and shut down other schools — meaning job cuts across the education spectrum. Obama’s pick to head the Department of Educuation, Arne Duncan, recently warned that stimulus dollars were needed immediately to “avert literally hundreds of thousands of teacher layoffs.”
What’s more, as Frank pointed out, it’s not just teachers who need federal stimulus dollars to be pumped into states. States are also cutting their public safety budgets, meaning police and firefighters across the country are losing their jobs.