Governors with hands out

The governors of three states appeared before Congress last week like panhandlers on a street corner. They want hundreds of billions of dollars in bailout funds for the states.

The governors of Wisconsin, New Jersey and Vermont said the revenue they are receiving from their own taxpayers is insufficient to meet the needs of their state governments. They want U.S. taxpayers to make up the difference.

There’s a serious disconnect here. Don’t they understand that federal taxpayers are also state taxpayers. What they’re suggesting is like writing a check to yourself.

Congress and President-elect Barack Obama are already talking of spending up to $140 billion to help states, cities and counties with infrastructure projects such as roads and bridges. We don’t think that’s a bad idea, especially since federal highway funds that normally go to states for such things have been diminishing. Building roads and bridges not only provides jobs and uses commodities such as concrete, it also improves transportation systems for commerce, and thus helps grow the economy.

But the three governors said states need another $100 billion to meet the costs of day-to-day operations. Those operations may include state services that are important to different people, but very few of them are net economic generators. Nor do they play a critical role in our economy, such as the banking sector does.

Equally important, meeting the needs of state government is the responsibility of the citizens of each state. If they cannot meet those needs, then states must cut back.

Congress should reject this handout and not ask taxpayers to pay more money out of one pocket because their state governors seem to believe they aren’t paying enough out of another.


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