If you thought your wallet was feeling light, it's not just you — states are feeling the budget crunch just as hard — with unique ways to manage the money meltdown.
In California, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has just threatened to pay state employees federal minimum wage in an effort to push lawmakers to agree on a budget. Even though minimum wage hikes up today, it would still mean thousands of workers would only take home $6.55 an hour (which is still $1.45 an hour less than CA's minimum wage.)
The budget stall comes as Republicans and Democrats battle to bridge the $15.2 billion budget shortfall California is facing. Republicans want to deal with money crisis through cuts, Democrats are angling for more taxes. Schwarzenegger says he won't sign a budget unless it contains improvements like a rainy day fund to help the state through tough times. Hmm. Just like we're supposed to have at home!
Also in the category of, "Governments! They're just like us!" Gas! Though consumers have been concerned about the price of fuel for months, state budgets — especially for driving heavy departments, like the police — are way overdrawn on fuel bills. To see how cops have to carpool, read more.
In Montana, where the Highway Patrol sometimes has to drive up to 100 miles to answer a call in their fuel inefficient Crown Victorias (a big ol' 15 m.p.g) they've busted their budget by $340,000 in gas bills alone. Where's the money coming from? The personnel budget. No new cops 'til the tanks get filled.
Over in New Mexico, they're in similar straits, and are waiting for the governor to call a special legislative session to get their gas card paid off. They're trying to though! In addition to carpooling whenever they can, one Lieutenant says, "we have asked officers to shop around and know where the cheapest gas is to buy." Shopping for gas — that won't take time out of the "keeping us safe" part of the day or anything.
Nevada is $1 million dollars over budget on gas. Their solution is getting officers to drive less. So less patrolling, more speed-trapping. If you're headed through the Silver State, watch for smokies under the overpasses — they'll be sitting there, saving fuel.
Are any of these state measures to save, smart? What's the solution when states are as pinched as taxpayers — the same ones who give the states money to begin with?