Impending Local and State Government Layoffs to Put More Pressure on Nonprofits

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September, 2011; Source: Governing | Peter Harkness, who writes Governing’s Potomac Chronicle column, says the citizenry is ill-prepared and under-informed regarding the funding cuts coming down the pike. That may mean nonprofits too.

Despite indications by someone somewhere that the nation is emerging from the recession and state budget revenues are on the upswing, Harkness believes that “the full brunt of the Great Recession is washing over most states and localities like a tsunami, carrying away programs and people on a scale that was unimaginable a short time ago.”

He touches on the pure ignorance of many government critics, such as the Tea Party supporter marching with a poster that oxymoronically read, “Keep Government’s Hands Off My Medicare!” The misinformation and deceit about governmental expenditures are widespread, abetted by those who simply don’t care about the facts but are impelled to protest against government—and the people who need governmental assistance—as an involuntary reflex of their central nervous systems. 

The truly scary stuff he lays out is this:

  • This school year, some two-thirds of school districts will be laying off teachers and staff, resulting in 250,000 layoffs in total.
  • State college tuitions around the nation have been increasing by as much as 20 percent per year in some areas. (Florida has had three consecutive tuition increases of 15 percent—but only because that’s the largest annual hike allowed by state law.)
  • Between August of 2008 and May of 2011, there were 535,000 public sector workers laid off, and that number could soon reach 800,000, with four-fifths of the layoffs coming from local government.

Why the big cuts? The federal stimulus money has run out, and some programs likely to be cut on the federal level are administered through the states. Senator John D. Rockefeller (D-West Virginia) notes that seniors, a powerful voting constituency, will probably protect their Medicare piece of the federal funding picture. Meanwhile, poor people and children don’t have that strength at the ballot box, so the kinds of programs they use, such as Medicaid, are “on the chopping block.”

Here’s what Harkness’s picture means to us: All of those hundreds of thousands of local government-personnel layoffs will mean that the services that local government once provided will increasingly fall to mission-driven nonprofits—but without the money to pay for them.—Rick Cohen

  • Leander

    I really bet that a Tea Party person held a sign up that said “Keep Government Hands off my Medicare.” Sure. Tea Party people are smart. They tend to be older, suburban, and very informed on issues. 750,000 Tea Party supporters marched on DC last year; the day after they left, you could not find a scrap of trash on the ground. If a dozen liberals march on DC, they have to up security and hire clean-up crews to sweep up the drug paraphernaia. Teacher unions have bloated state and local govt. costs to increase their salaries/benefits and numbers. It is about time we cut them off from fleecing the American people. BTW, “poor” people in America are FAT. Nobody starves in America. Nobody.

  • Kelly Kleiman

    On what basis does Leander argue that liberals are scary druggie litterers? I’m a proud liberal–you know, the people who brought you Social Security and Medicare and the Civil Rights Act and the 40-hour workweek–and have marched on Washington more than once in utter sobriety and neatness.
    If state and local government budgets are bloated–a contention I deny generally, though it may be true in specific cases–it’s not the salaries or pensions of teachers that are to blame. Teachers get no Social Security, so their pensions are all they can rely on–and are something we the people promised them. But why should we care about teachers’ well-being? They only educate our children.
    And if poor people are fat–very often true–it’s because the government subsidizes the growth of corn, making processed foods full of fattening hydrogenated oils cheaper than fresh fruit. It may be true that nobody starves in America but all those people at food pantries aren’t there for entertainment, and most of them are working.
    The worst damage the Tea Party has done is to suggest to one group of Americans that another group is to be hated and feared. I’m sorry you’re involved in that activity, Leander.

  • Andrew Geary

    The Tea Party prides itself on being a horizontal, amorphous group with no central leadership. It is certainly possible one Tea Party member is misinformed. Unions arose for a reason – workers were being treated poorly and hazardously by their employers. All contracts signed by the unions, including teachers’ unions, are negotiated and agreed on by both parties. Finger pointing is not appropriate. And while the hunger issues in this country are not on par with Somalia, 17.4 million of our citizens cannot count on food on a daily basis. We may have an obesity epidemic, but we do have people who need our support and help, and currently many of the food banks in our country have historically low inventory. These are eye-opening numbers and should be considered seriously.