The shoe finally fell tonight.
We’ve known for weeks approximately what was going to happen, but we’ve been in a holding pattern to see what form it would take.
The State of Arizona, like all the states is experiencing a drastic turn-down in tax revenue. Like many governments, Arizona spends its tax money before it receives it. In fact, for all the hype you hear from politicians claiming we ought to “live within our means” – none of them seem to be willing to spend money after it has been collected. The budgeting process is a complex system based entirely on tax forecasts, which as anyone with half a semester of economics can tell you is (eventually) a recipe for disaster.
Arizona; however, is facing the largest percentage shortfall of any state, and they’ve known a storm was blowing for months. We’ve been on a hiring freeze for the better part of a year. They stopped collecting our garbage save for twice a week, the turn up and/or down the thermostats and they disconnected half the light bulbs in our building. As we’ve scampered to save every penny we can, they’ve swept it away to try to float the ship. We’ve been siphoned down past the level of safe blood-letting.
The budget crisis has been in limbo for months because the Republican controlled state legislature didn’t want to negotiate with the (outgoing) Democratic Governor. Knowing that she was going to work for President Obama and that the next-in-line for Governor was a rank-and-file Republican, they waited. Every day they waited, the deficit gets harder to overcome.
The legislature is overwhelmingly ideologically in goose-step opposition to raising taxes for any reason and so, at last, a brutal budget has been hashed out (mostly behind closed doors, of course) and they’ve slashed across the board without regard to individual agencies’ existing funds, requirements, mandates, whatever. “Just give us 10%” of your annual budget back.”
That might not sound so bad except, 10% of the annual means effectively over 20% for the remainder of the year, and, since many of an agency’s expenses are paid in advance, or are contractually obligated by law, for a small agency like ours, it’s closer to 35%. And since they’d already taken anything we’d saved and eliminated any purchases we might have had budgeted, there’s precious little left except personnel costs.
Today we got the word, for starters, all staff will be on unpaid leave for 18 days in the next 18 weeks. Effectively a 20% pay cut for the next 5 months. With the job market being what it is, that’s a whole lot better than being unemployed, but it isn’t a picnic.
The Administration Department laid off all the building maintenance workers for our building last week. Today, we didn’t have toilet paper in our bathrooms. Do they still print Sears & Roebuck catalogs?
I’m not saying that some almost-miraculous circumstances might not pop up, but unless they day, it seems very unlikely that we’ll be going to England this year, despite missing taking Michelle to see the Museum of Natural History that she so dearly wants to see and missing an almost once-in-a-lifetime chance to see the World Twenty20 Cup final.
Perhaps airfare will plummet to under a $500 a person, and we can squeak out 4 days, just enough time to got to the museum, see the game, have some good fish & chips and kebobs and come back?