Sunday, July 24, 2011

Life in Red State

Despite the fact that tax revenues have dropped for nearly every state in the union, eleven states have been able to produce budget surpluses.

As Washington stares at rising national debt and projected deficits for years to come, many states are faced with the opposite problem: whether to spend their budget surpluses and, if so, on what.

At least a dozen states ended fiscal 2011 with surpluses. Indiana reported one of the largest, with an extra $1.2 billion in its accounts. Gov. Mitch Daniels, a Republican, on Friday authorized bonus payments of up to $1,000 for state employees. An employee who “meets expectations” will get $500, those who “exceed expectations” will receive $750 and “outstanding workers” will see an extra $1,000 in their August paychecks.

“No state anywhere comes close to Indiana’s record of spending tax dollars carefully, with total savings over the last six years in the billions. Your spending efficiency has enabled us to stay in the black even as revenues plummeted,” said Mr. Daniels, who recently flirted with a run for the White House but ultimately stayed out of the race.

While Indiana decided to reward its employees, other states are redirecting surplus funds into cash-strapped areas such as education. Idaho ended the year with an $85 million surplus, the majority of which will be funneled to public schools and colleges, Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter, a Republican, said in a statement last week.

If you had a gun to your head and the wrong answer meant pulling the trigger would you bet that the states with the surpluses were prominently red or blue?


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