But now the lawmakers' shortsightedness - handing out tax breaks to industry while using unrealistic growth statistics to set budgets - has come home to roost and they are grasping at every straw - including cutting the number of Superior Court judges. (How many motions will be filed complaining about the lack of a speedy trial?) Such a move wouldn't save the estimated $19 million the plan's sponsor is predicting. Those savings would quickly disappear once the roughly $55 a day it costs to keep someone behind bars at our Law Enforcement Center and other jails around the state is calculated. All such a move would do is cost shift the expense from the state to local governments - something lawmakers have become very good at.
For example, the state can close down its mental health facilities. That doesn't mean there are fewer people with mental issues, it just means they are housed on the counties' dime and not the state's. Lawmakers are down to throwing ideas on a wall and hoping some of them stick. The idea to cut an additional $300 million from higher education fell like a lead duck. With the state looking at a huge shortfall in the 2010-11 budget, more than $2 billion, looking down the road not too far reveals a deficit twice that amount.
None of the cuts will be easy. Lawmakers can deflect and say they have no choice if they want to, but voters need not forget how we got here.