Who is to blame for the mounting budget deficits in state and local governments? Local officials fault the regional slowdown that has sapped income and development-related tax revenues. Analysts point to years of short-sighted overspending by local governments fueled by boom-generated tax dollars and public demand. At the state level, legislators are also reaping a healthy serving of blame for missing early warnings of trouble ahead.
Governments in virtually every jurisdiction have been hit between the eyes by circumstances within and outside their control. Under-funding of welfare and other entitlement programs by the governor and legislature has made the situation worse, adding $70 million to the state's $423 million budget gap.
More important than assigning blame, however, are efforts to deal with new economic realities. Prince George's County has set a workable, if painful, precedent by freezing purchases and laying off workers to avert a $50 million shortfall. Howard County is considering a tax increase to address a $18 million revenue gap.