“I’m afraid I’m going to lose the service altogether and if that happens I’ll lose my job,” said Kooney, a 40-year-old Clifton Park, N.Y., woman who is using personal time to fill in gaps when her 12-year-old son, Matthew, is home from school. An aide left earlier this year, and they’ve been waiting for a replacement.
“They’re really looking at cutting back and, for my family, that’s a really big thing,” she said.
Cuts could have an effect long after any kind of recovery takes place.
“These cuts are atrocious, and they’re really in the long run going to cost the state of California a fortune because … the best preventative health care is good dental care and if you don’t take care of people’s teeth it leads to all kinds of complications,” said O’Brien.
New York’s Fiscal Policy Institute cautioned that leaning too heavily on spending cuts would offset the positive impact of the federal stimulus funds.
“Doing budget cuts or tax increases on the fly right now—for the last six months of the year—is not a good idea for the economy because all the economists think a recovery has begun or is about to begin,” said Frank Mauro, executive director of the Fiscal Policy Institute. “I think we shouldn’t do things to interrupt that.”
The report listed four common traits that make states fiscally vulnerable: economies that are overly dependent on a single industry; substantial gaps between revenues and expenditures; limited ability to raise taxes or cut programs; and lack of political resolve to make long-term decisions.
Until the economy improves, the victims of these budget cuts try to make the best of a bad situation.
Dance, the laid-off California teacher and former stay-at-home mom, checks online job sites.
“I went through a divorce and had to get reeducated and back into the workforce. In June, I was ready to get tenure, and they just let me go,” Dance said. “There’s no job security anymore.”
But she has hope. She’s planning to return to school yet again to become certified in a discipline that has a growing need.
“I went back at 49 and got my teaching credential. And now at 58, I’m going to go back and get a credential in special ed.”
Donna Liquori is a writer in upstate New York.