Tuesday, November 30, 2010

And Now for the States

State governments are drowning for two reasons: 1) obligations to public employees; 2) the state share of medicare and medicaid spending. Most states are now beginning to confront the public employee problem by reigning in the some of the worst abuses of overly lavish pay and benefits (teachers top the list, by the way).

Only Republican Governor Bob McDonnell of Virginia has opted to pour on more lavish benefits for public employees and leave the taxpayer to pick up the tab, but he is an outlier. Governor Christie of New Jersey has led the charge to begin to curb the enormous pay and benefits of public employees. Other Governors, Democratic and Republican, are following Christie's lead. Even President Obama has entered the fray by freezing public employee pay for two years in a symbolic gesture toward sanity.

But, there is much to be done. California's off-balance sheet pension liabilities are estimated to exceed $ 1.5 Trillion (those numbers are not in the budget, which now $ 25 billion out of balance). So life should get interesting in California. A similar pattern exists in New York and time is no longer on their side.

Again, much like Europe, look for debt defaults and workouts by state governments as they struggle to undo the poor policies of the forty years.

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