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Thursday, July 30, 2009

When budgets get rough, states get gimmicky

New Hampshire tried to balance its budget by taking $110 Million from a private insurance fund. That bit of creative accounting by Governor Lynch and the legislature was recently ruled unconstitutional by Judge McGuire. Sadly other states have resorted to tricks and gimmicks, instead of hard work and tough decisions, to balance their budgets too.

By Curt Woodward
Associated Press Writer / July 30, 2009

OLYMPIA, Wash.—Here's one creative way that state lawmakers helped balance Washington's troubled budget: They assumed public employees will stay on the job longer -- and die sooner than expected once they finally retire.

That bit of fancy footwork, which saved the state about $45 million, is just one entry on a long list of financial gimmicks that legislators nationwide have cooked up to patch holes in their states' budgets.

It's a roster of shell games that might land the average taxpayer on a collection agency's speed-dial list. But when times are tough, public officials aren't shy about juggling the books to make a short-term budget problem disappear.

"It's often a pretty impressive set of magic tricks," said Richard Briffault, a Columbia University law professor who specializes in state and local governments.

There are other prime examples: (more)

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