Do insolvent states actually believe other states should bail them out? In June 2009, I was invited to introduce Michael Reagan at an event in Anchorage. In my remarks as Governor of Alaska, I warned against President Obama’s debt-ridden stimulus bill and its effect on all our state budgets. I believed that the bill’s benefits would be limited because government would grow exponentially, and I warned that the package was equivalent to a federal bribe with fat strings attached that created new unfunded mandates for state governments. At the time, most state legislatures, including Alaska’s, chose to ignore that warning. I predicted that states like California would soon be coming to the federal government asking for a bailout. After I gave that speech, I remember the mocking I received for predicting California and other big government states would continue to spend recklessly and yet expect others to bail them out. The naysayers in the media went a bit wild in their condemnation of my sounding that alarm.
Well, fast forward to today. We now know that the nearly trillion dollar stimulus package didn’t lead to the job growth promised by President Obama; instead it left already struggling state governments even deeper in debt because now they are on the hook to continue programs and projects that were started by these “free” federal funds. So now, as predicted, folks in Washington and in over-spending state capitols are whispering the dreaded “b-word”: bailouts – for individual states!
American taxpayers should not be expected to bail out wasteful state governments. Fiscally liberal states spent years running away from the hard decisions that could have put their finances on a more solid footing. Now they expect taxpayers from other states to bail them out, which will allow them to postpone the tough decisions they should have made ages ago and continue spending like there’s no tomorrow. Most Americans would say these states have made their bed and now they’ve got to lie in it. They accepted federal dollars and did not voice opposition to the unfunded federal mandates, and they even re-elected politicians who foisted debt-ridden programs on them that could never be sustained.
Instead of coming to D.C. cap in hand asking for more “free” money, they should follow the example of their more prudent sister states and take the necessary steps to sort out their own finances. They must start by reforming their insolvent pension systems. Many states have multi-billion dollar unfunded pension liability problems that they have refused to address for many years. They’ve deferred their spending problems, assuming the problem deferred would be an issue avoided; instead, it’s resulted in a crisis invited. These states still won’t reform their costly defined benefit systems for fear of offending the powerful public sector unions. Sooner or later, their pension systems will collapse unless they do what states like Alaska did, which is to swap unsustainable defined benefits, which are more like glorified Ponzi schemes, for a more prudent defined contributions system.
My home state made the switch from defined benefits to a defined contribution system, and as governor, I introduced a number of measures to build on that successful transition, while also addressing the issue of the remaining funding shortfall by prioritizing budgets to wrap our financial arms around this too-long ignored debt problem …
I’m also including several paragraphs of this Note on the Palin Resume page for permanent reference of Governor Palin’s record.