The main message from the recent Denver Post/9 News sponsored effort to have interested citizens balance a budget is that they can’t make any cuts of significance. Their most enthusiastic choice was for a steeply graduated billion dollar plus increase in the state income tax.
After a 40-minute exercise in using hand-held polling devises, the assembled audience, populated with a high percentage of liberal interest groups and media types, cut $100,000,000 out of the state’s billion-dollar deficit and mostly ignored the Governor’s recommendations, for example, for a quarter billion dollar cut in K-12 spending.
However, this audience is not much different than the public at large in their reluctance to cut anything they value for reasons of social equality, sympathy or pure self-interest. Repeated national polls show the public wants a balanced budget and claims to prefer cuts over higher taxes and borrowing, but refuses to endorse any serious reductions in entitlements or defense, and likes the concept of taxing high-income individuals or profitable corporations.
The latest Gallup poll on state budget balancing shows the public claims to prefer balancing the budget with cuts, not taxes or borrowing. But, if given a list of items that reducing will make the biggest impact – Social Security and Medicare – voters cringe and can’t do it.
Notice the Wisconsin scenario of limiting bargaining rights of state employee unions is very polarizing.
As the two members of the Colorado Joint Budget Committee said, they don’t have a choice. They must balance the budget by May. And, they can’t raise taxes without a vote of the public. But, that couldn’t take place until November, and if passed, wouldn’t start to take effect until 2012.