Are Local Governments Going Broke?

An opinion piece in the Huffington Post by Steven Cohen, Executive Director, Columbia University’s Earth Institute, discusses the difficult budget situations of local governments across the country.

While tax revenues have finally begun to grow as the economy recovers, four years of declining tax collections, reduced state aid, and increased pension costs have had a devastating impact on local governments, the services they provide, and the infrastructure they finance.

In the article, he highlights the bankruptcy of a county in Alabama and actions of another where the size of local government shrunk by 20%.

He offered the following in his final analysis.

It seems to me that in 2012, no one is willing to face up to this crisis of government funding. Everyone is trying to look the other way. While the Obama stimulus package helped state and local governments for a while, today, no one in Washington is willing to help state governments deal with their budget gaps. And no one in our state capitals seems willing to help their local governments.

Instead: Police forces are cut, and crime goes up. Libraries are cut, and quality of life goes down. Government job cuts keep unemployment high and dampen the economic recovery that is trying to find its footing. These are the real issues that the American public is dealing with every day. They require mature and intelligent debate and problem solving, of a type that is well beyond the superficial nonsense of our current political dialogue. Still, one can always hope…

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