NEAL CONAN, host:
This is Talk of the Nation. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. The grim economic news we've all been reading affects the states, too. Because of plummeting tax receipts, the states and federal government will collect a lot less money than before. Texas, for example, estimated today $9 billion less over the next two years.
Unlike the federal government though, states have to balance their budget. So less revenue means less spending. President-elect Obama wants to provide funds to states as part of his recovery program, but nobody outside the transition team has seen the numbers yet, and Congress has yet to weigh in.
So there's no alternative right now at state capitals but to cut. In Californian, Governor Schwarzenegger proposes five fewer days of school to save over a billion dollars. So as part of our occasional series, Your Life in a Recession Today, your state in a recession. What's being cut? What are the proposals? What has already been cut from the state budgets? How does it affect you?
Tell us your story. 800-989-8255 is the phone number. Email us, firstname.lastname@example.org. And you can join the conversation at our Web site. That's at npr.org. Just click on Talk of the Nation. Later in the program, "Slumdog Millionaire" sweeps the Golden Globes. Mumbai Mirror columnist Aseem Chhabra joins us.
But first, your state in a recession. And we begin at the Sacramento bureau of KQED, our member station in San Francisco, with John Meyers, the Sacramento bureau chief for the California Report. Nice to have you on the program today.
Mr. JOHN MEYERS (Sacramento Bureau Chief, California Report): Thank you, Neal.
CONAN: And so, how big is the problem in California?
Mr. MEYERS: The problem is mammoth in California. I think it's the California dreaming that's turned into a California nightmare. You know, we have a $44 billion deficit over the next 16 months in California. And just for some perspective on that, when you look at what other states around the country actually spend, only New York and Texas actually spend more than our deficit is. So we really are kind of a nation-state out here.
But it's a mammoth problem, and Governor Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders still trying to figure out what to do about it. They're actually meeting as we speak. They began the meeting about 20 minutes ago. But it's a large problem with no easy answers, especially in this economy when tax revenues are coming in so low against projections.
CONAN: And every educator argues that we need more school, longer school years. Five fewer days, is that going to be part of the next year in California?
Mr. MEYERS: That's a proposal that Governor Schwarzenegger put out. You're correct. Basically want to give school districts around the state the option of cutting five days out. So in California, you have 180 days in a school year. Some other states are the same. Some are lower. The governor will allow the districts to trim it down to 175, which requires a change in state law. But five days is worth a billion dollars in California in school funding.
But it's only one of a number of really serious proposals he's put out there. He's also talking about furloughs of state workers, where you would close some state agencies for a couple of days a month. So you go to the DMV on a certain day of the month, and the doors are locked. You can't get in. He's got some other big cuts of social services...
CONAN: And furloughs would mean that not only are the offices are closed, so they don't to heat them and do other things, they're not paying people.
Mr. MEYERS: Exactly, right. So it's impact there for state workers as well and social services cuts as well in California. So that's some very serious, big problems and very - no easy way to do it, I guess I should say.
CONAN: Well, so students and state workers, I guess those are big ticket items, but so is health care.
Mr. MEYERS: It is. Health care is a very big one. And as a matter of fact, Governor Schwarzenegger has been sending letters to President-elect Obama asking for different kinds of ways that California and other states should be given some assistance, you know, in these economic times.
And one of the things the governor has asked the president-elect about is perhaps a temporary increase in Medicaid funding for states because California and other states have increased case loads at this time, and they need some financial help. And so that's one of the things that folks here in Sacramento are looking to Washington, D.C. for assistance from in the coming days.
CONAN: And there's no option in California but to balance the budget, correct?
Mr. MEYERS: Technically, you're correct. I think a lot of folks would argue that these budgets have not really been balanced when you look at them. They've been balanced on paper. But we've had a number of years of gimmicks, for lack of a better term, that have made the budget balanced.
And I think that's really one of the stories about why California is in such a pickle here. It's not only the economy which has really evaporated tax revenues, but California never got its budget house in order in all these years that other states kind of got rainy day funds put away and things like that. And so it's a double whammy for folks here.
CONAN: And obviously, with the economy so bad, nobody wants to raise taxes even in good times. But I assume that's not a popular thought either, particularly in a recession.
Mr. MEYERS: It's not, though Governor Schwarzenegger has put out a tax increase proposal. He's broken his tax pledge that he ran on when he was elected in 2003 and re-elected in 2006 talking about a temporary sales tax increase. The trouble is, he can't get Republicans in the state legislature to agree with him, and the California Constitution says you have to have a two-thirds vote, a super majority for a budget and tax increase.
And the governor's toughest critics right now, I think, are his fellow Republicans, who don't want to go along with it. They really want to just do spending cuts. And so that's the problem we have been in here for several weeks.
And the sad reality is, California's about to run out of cash. The state's chief financial officer, the comptroller, has said that we're probably not going to have enough cash to pay our bills in February, and he's talking about a plan of issuing the IOUs for only the second time, I think, in modern California history to some vendors who do business with the state. So it's a real bad problem.
CONAN: And the other question you mentioned, his fellow Republicans, the state legislature is controlled by the Democrats. Presumably, they're not too interested in cutting things like health coverage and education.
Mr. MEYERS: They are not, though they have put forward some plans that did offer some cuts. Schwarzenegger said they didn't go far enough, but they want to see a little higher end in the tax increase, and the governor has been reluctant to do that, and we really have had this gridlock.
And I go back again to this notion that California can't pass a budget with the simple majority vote like a lot of other states can. And as a result, we really are stuck here. And people start to wonder about the dysfunction in government and, you know, whether anybody can resolve it. Arnold Schwarzenegger ran this campaign of saying he was going to clean up California state government. He may be sorry he has the job five years later.
CONAN: Thanks very much, John Meyers. It sounds like you're going to have an interesting time covering - how long is these legislative sessions suppose to last?
Mr. MEYERS: We're year round. So we're here all the time.
CONAN: I was going to say, get yourself, you know, a tent and a sleeping bag. Looks like you're going to be there a while.
Mr. MEYERS: Thank you.
CONAN: Appreciate the time. John Meyers, the Sacramento bureau chief for KQED's California Report with us from KQED's bureau in Sacramento, the capital of California.
Well, how is it affecting your state? What budget cuts are being made? What budget cuts are being talked about? 800-989-8255, email us, email@example.com. We'll begin with Matt. Matt is calling us from Cincinnati.
MATT (Caller): Hi. Thanks for taking my call.
CONAN: Go ahead, please.
MATT: Yeah. I'm a teacher in Cincinnati, Ohio, and what's happened with us is kind of two-fold. The first part of it is that our schools are funded based on property taxes, which obviously aren't doing so hot.
MATT: And we just got news that the governor is cutting 10 percent of funding to education. So for a school district like mine, we're - our budget was already only $20 million a year. That's pretty detrimental. So...
CONAN: If you had to cut 10 percent, my math - my arithmetic is not so great, but that's a pretty substantial part of your budget.
MATT: Yeah, about $4.5 million is what's going to be ended up cut by the state.
CONAN: And as you look around, generally, people - well, what kind of programs are going to be cut do you think?
MATT: Well, I mean, our superintendent's exact words were, the only thing that I'm legally required to have as superintendent, teachers, intervention specialists, and a treasurer, so you tell me how bad it can get.
(Soundbite of laughter)
MATT: So we're looking at cutting things like gifted services, sports, you know, things like that - library and things like that.
CONAN: Music, arts...
MATT: Music, art, a lot of those things are obviously in danger, as well as things like accelerated programs and intervention programs that are in place.
CONAN: That sounds pretty dire. When are you going to find out exactly what's going to be cut?
MATT: Supposedly, you know, some time in the next couple of weeks. They've been trying to hammer it out. We've got the New Year in and the budget forecast. And so...
CONAN: Well, presumably, if - 10 percent of the teachers would have to go, too?
MATT: Well, they're hoping not to do that, so that's why all those other programs would get cut would be to try to save teachers jobs because where we are - we're unfortunately a growing school district that needs funding, and the way Ohio does funding is, you have to pass tax levies with the community for property taxes, like I said.
So we have to try to approve a ballot measure coming up in May, and if we can't do that, then, yeah, probably about - you know, teachers are going to end up getting cut, obviously, but I don't know about 10 percent.
CONAN: Yeah, a ballot measure? What's that for?
MATT: Well, the way we do funding in Ohio is, the voters in a district have to vote to approve a tax measure for a tax addition for their property taxes which will fund the schools.
CONAN: I get it.
MATT: That's how we get our funding...
CONAN: All right, Matt.
MATT: That and from the state.
CONAN: Matt, we wish you the best of luck.
MATT: Thank you.
CONAN: Bye-bye. Let's go next to Jason, Jason with us from Ann Arbor, Michigan.
JASON (Caller): Well yeah, hello.
JASON: I was just calling to say that because of the depreciating home values and the foreclosure mess that's really hit the state of Michigan hard, a lot of the central services and one of those being snow removal and road maintenance have made the past two winters absolutely miserable here in the state...
JASON: As they try and cut back the amount of road crews' overtime hours and the salt that they're supplying us to these different municipalities.
CONAN: Every time there's a forecast to be a blizzard, you always see the TV weatherman standing in front of that mountain of salt that's going to be spread on the highway, and you just have little hills of salt?
JASON: Right, yeah, there - usually it's beginning of the year, December, January, things are pretty good, but as we move later into the winter and with the snow events we've been having these past few years, the winter has been pretty tough. Things get pretty rough come February, March, and they have to really put their thinking caps on when it comes to, you know, conserving the resources.
CONAN: There's also the question of not just the salt, as you suggest, the overtime for the crews who work on these things and also maintenance for the roads themselves.
JASON: Right. Mother Nature doesn't, you know, give us too much warning, a few days. And if a big storm event, you know, happens on the weekend, it's, you know, overtime for these folks that have to work during the week. So, you know, they can't control that aspect of it either, so it's difficult.
CONAN: Yeah, also storms don't just happen nine to five Mondays through Fridays, as you suggest.
JASON: Right, yeah.
CONAN: Yeah. What's it like driving to work?
JASON: It's been pretty bad. We got hit pretty hard with that last snow storm that came through, and a lot of people just don't go if it's real bad. They just either call in or figure something out, but it gets pretty hairy.
CONAN: And that doesn't much help the economy either.
JASON: No, it doesn't.
CONAN: Jason, thanks very much for the call. Appreciate it.
JASON: Thanks a lot.
CONAN: As the revenue to states falls amid the falling economy, what's being cut where you live? What are they talking about? Give us a call. 800-989-8255 is our phone number. Email us, firstname.lastname@example.org.
We're going to be going next to North Carolina and hear more about Michigan as well. And we want to hear from you, too. I'm Neal Conan. Stay with us. It's the Talk of the Nation from NPR News.
(Soundbite of music)
CONAN: This is Talk of the Nation. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. States got what might be good news today. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York said the stimulus plan proposed by President-elect Barack Obama will likely include help for state governments to the tune of about 80 billion in school grants and money for Medicaid as well. Democrat Schumer said the states should get about one third of the money the federal government will spend to rescue the economy. Well, of course, that has yet to be introduced in Congress, much less passed by Congress, so we'll have to see.
Not just New York is looking for help though. We're going to hear from North Carolina and Michigan in a moment. Many states face deep drops in revenue in this economy. In many cases, that means budget cuts in education, transportation, medical care to name just a few. As part of our occasional series, Your Life in a Recession, today, your state in recession. What's being cut? How does it affect you?
Call us, 800-989-8255. Email is email@example.com. And there's a conversation underway on our Web site. Go to npr.org, just click on Talk of the Nation. Leoneda Inge is joining us now. She's at North Carolina Public Radio, where she reports on the changing economy. Nice to have you on Talk of the Nation.
LEONADA INGE: Hi there, Neal.
CONAN: Leoneda, I apologize for...
INGE: Leoneda Inge. Hi.
CONAN: Leoneda, mispronouncing your name. How is this playing out in North Carolina?
INGE: Well, North Carolina in many ways is no different from any other state. We're really suffering. You know, this was - this is a big manufacturing state, so a lot of the job losses we've had over the years, over the last few decades have been in textiles, furniture, tobacco, that sort of thing. But right now, if you look at the numbers - just your regular service sector jobs, that's where the top job loss is, and it's not necessarily manufacturing.
CONAN: And, of course, that means a decreased revenue for the state. How big is the budget gap looking?
INGE: The gap looks pretty big. We just - our new governor just had her inauguration over the weekend - Bev Perdue - and she's actually looking at a deficit of about possibly $3 billion. No, it's not as big as California, as we just heard. But that's still about 10 percent of our budget that was 21.5 billion, so it's a big deal here.
CONAN: And what are the proposed budget cuts to get that back into line?
INGE: Well, some of the things that - well, one thing that she definitely says, to keep everything as far away from education as possible. So, almost every department in the state is looking at cuts of that amount in their department, but keeping it away from the schools is just her main objective right now.
She's just in the first couple of days of her new administration. Of course, she ran on - you know, when she was running for governor, she spoke about the budget deficit and how the economy would be - is being affected right now but - so, we're really just waiting to see if she's really going to, you know, put the hammer down in the first few days of her administration.
CONAN: What a fun topic to begin your new administration with.
INGE: Oh, Neal, not fun at all. And actually, she spoke before the North Carolina bankers Association last week, and I think it was one of her most, you know, passionate speeches that I've heard in a long time because North Carolina has hit a lot of history making marks, you know, when you think of the number of people who are out of work, the number of jobs that were lost last year in North Carolina, for example.
And she said she's really, you know, feeling it. You know, not that she came to tears but, you know, she knows she has a hard job ahead of her. And one of the first things that she sort of encouraged to bring on, I guess, some more jobs in the construction area is that our Council of State, they approved about $700 million worth of some expenditures to - for capital projects to kind of expedite the process to bring some of these jobs back right now because construction, you know, North Carolina grew really fast in the last decade. Our population grew, our schools grew, you know, a lot of new homes, and now, that's sort of at a standstill.
CONAN: Mm hmm. What is the state looking for in terms of federal assistance from the president-elect's stimulus package?
INGE: Well, one thing I know they're looking at because one of our congressmen, Bob Etheridge, actually held a news conference this morning. And so, he says really school construction funding, he really wants that to be included in the recovery package. It's being discussed right now.
And he says that his proposal would provide, you know, almost $500 million for North Carolina, and that would also bring about some jobs. He says about maybe 10,000 jobs for the states. So, that's what he's stressing, and that's what's being talked about.
CONAN: And all those jobs - well, hopefully those people would pay their income tax, and then North Carolina would do better in terms of its tax revenues. Leoneda, thank you very much for your time today.
INGE: Thank you.
CONAN: Leoneda Inge reports on the changing economy for North Carolina Public Radio. Here's an e-mail from Christian(ph) in Jacksonville, Florida. The state of Florida is cutting funds to the tune of $2.3 billion in a special session as we speak. Governments will be hit quite hard this year and next. Woe is Florida. Locally, there has been talk of cutting 186 teachers in the local school system in northeast Florida.
And this from Catherine(ph) in Hermitage, Tennessee. We have suggested the state of Tennessee request a charter to become a bank and request TARP funds to keep from needing to lay any state employees off. I just hope we get in line before the other 49 states think of it. I'm sorry we've blown your cover.
Let's get Mike on the line. Mike is calling us from St. Augustine, Florida.
MIKE (Caller): Hi. How are you?
CONAN: I'm good, Mike. How are you?
MIKE: I'm all right. I live over here in northeast Florida. I work for a suburban/rural community. We do fire fighting and EMS, and we had two projected new stations to come online, and they got cut due to a property tax, the homes exempt tax that got voted in three to one.
CONAN: And so, due to that tax reduction or just holding the tax steady?
MIKE: Tax reduction.
CONAN: Tax - people's homes are worth less than they used to be a couple of years ago.
MIKE: Right, and they roll us back to the 2001 budget, which is before we had the big boom here in Florida.
CONAN: And you note that there's been that big boom. There's a lot more people there.
MIKE: Yes. A whole lot more people. We only have six ambulances in the county, and they can all be tied up busy, not to mention they have us doing transports and things like that. So, a 911 truck could be out for four hours sometimes, and other trucks have to supplement the zone, and we only have six ambulances.
CONAN: Ambulance service is going to be a victim.
MIKE: Right and what a lot people in the state of Florida - I'm sure this is happening nationwide as well - the fire department does a lot of ambulance service, so you talk about fire tax, you don't see too many houses burning down your neighborhood. You don't think that they're actually also the key people that are taking you to the hospital and providing emergency (unintelligible) life support care.
CONAN: Mike, thanks...
MIKE: To the hospital.
CONAN: Thanks very much. Good point. Thank you. Appreciate it. Good luck.
MIKE: Thank you.
CONAN: Bye bye. Let's go to Reid(ph), Reid with us from Clintonville in Wisconsin.
REID (Caller): Good afternoon, Neal. And thanks for this opportunity. Neal, I'm a retired teacher. Wisconsin has a state investment board and Wisconsin's retirement system has been traditionally one of the strongest in the United States.
I just received an e-mail on the 9th of this month. It says Wisconsin Retirement System Funds, 146,000 public employee retirees are likely to see their pension benefits shrink 2.5 to three percent. Not only that, but those employees that opted to participate in a variable fund - it was an optional all-stock portfolio which closed the year down 39 percent, and based on preliminary results will probably see a drop of 39 to 45 percent in that portion of their pensions.
CONAN: So obviously, the pension fund had money on Wall Street invested in firms - Wall Street really in the tank the last year or so.
REID: Yeah, Wisconsin retirement system has been one of the strongest in the nation, and my wife, who has not yet reached retirement age, is likely - who teaches at a university - is likely to no longer have a job as of the end of this year as well.
CONAN: Is she retiring, or is that job likely to be eliminated?
REID: She's not retiring.
CONAN: The job is going to be cut?
REID: Yes, I'm afraid so.
CONAN: Well, obviously, people on retirement live on small margins, Reid. This is a big deal.
REID: You bet it is. I'm an artist, and I work very hard now to supplement our income with the work I produce.
CONAN: Good luck with that, Reid.
REID: Thank you, sir, for this opportunity.
CONAN: Bye bye. Let's go now to - this is Daniel, Daniel in Roanoke, Virginia.
DANIEL (Caller): Hi. Thanks for taking my call.
CONAN: Go ahead, please.
DANIEL: I work in residential care for folks with developmental disabilities. Here in Roanoke, we have a few residential homes in the area, and our budget cuts are basically - have been more - have been on the state level. We're state funded, although we're a private corporation. The Medicaid waiver program that funds residential care in Virginia has been frozen, and basically, new slots cannot be created in order to serve people in the community.
And we've also had some budget cuts as far as the people who license us in our community basically saying that we're a home that's fit to serve people with developmental disabilities or cognitive disabilities or however you want to put it.
CONAN: So, throughout the system, in other words, not just cuts to the operators, but cuts to the people who, well, look at the operators to make sure they're doing a good job.
DANIEL: Exactly, yeah. And I think, you know, it's an interesting point that was made earlier about California saying that Medicaid - you know, they need more Medicaid funding for folks who are having hard economic times.
And I think to myself, you know, there are also - we also need to be remembering that there are folks who are always served by Medicaid, like the people that we serve, and they lose out in a situation like this, and obviously, you know, it can't be helped, you know, other than some pretty drastic action.
But the - you know, they lose out, and they're not able to go out into the community. They have to stay in the institution that they're in or in a very bad situation a lot of time, so.
CONAN: Well, Daniel, thanks for telling us about it.
DANIEL: All right. Thank you.
CONAN: Bye-bye. No state has been hit worse than Michigan. And now, Chris Christoff joins us. He's the Lansing bureau chief for the Detroit Free Press. He's with us at the studio at Michigan State University. Nice to have you on the program today.
Mr. CHRIS CHRISTOFF (Lansing Bureau Chief, Detroit Free Press): Good afternoon. Welcome to the bottom of the crater.
(Soundbite of laughter)
CONAN: And how does the bottom look in terms of revenue for the state of Michigan?
Mr. CHRISTOFF: Well, the last projection, the most recent one we had in last Friday was that we face an immediate $200 million deficit this fiscal year, and if nothing is done by next fiscal year that starts October 1st, we may face a billion and a half dollar deficit.
The reason we haven't had real deep cuts up until now is because in fall of '07, the state passed a large tax increase to the tune of about $1.4 billion. So they've been able to head off some of the really severe cuts that have happened maybe in other states or that they would have faced here in Michigan. But this year and the coming year may be the day of reckoning.
CONAN: I have to say that even hearing from North Carolina much less California, $600 million didn't sound that bad.
Mr. CHRISTOFF: Well, a billion six in the next...
CONAN: Oh, a billion six next year.
Mr. CHRISTOFF: A billion six, I'm sorry.
CONAN: Yeah, yeah.
Mr. CHRISTOFF: In Michigan, that's substantial. I mean, our total general fund, which is the discretionary funding outside of schools, runs about $8 billion. So you compare a billion six to that, and that's a large chunk of change. I mean, a billion six is almost what we spend on state universities here in Michigan.
CONAN: And so what is proposed to be slashed?
Mr. CHRISTOFF: We don't know yet because the governor will prepare her budget next month in February. We know the usual suspects are always the same. You have the prison spending, which is a very large chunk. I mean, prisons amount for the - or rather account for the largest employment in the state. Universities are always up for it. Revenue sharing - the state distributes money to local governments to the tune of a billion or more. That's always looked at. Medicaid is always a problematic issue here, too.
So there are only a few very large pots of money to look at. And the big fear is that for the first time, they may have to hit public schools, which they have been kept sacrosanct until now. They've done everything they can to avoid reducing funding to schools. So school districts are very nervous going into this new budget proposal.
CONAN: We're talking about budget cuts and how they are affecting states, which, of course, have to balance their budgets unlike the federal government. You're listening to Talk to the Nation from NPR News. And let me ask you, Chris Christoff, we had a caller earlier from Michigan who said that there's a problem just in the overtime for road crews and the amount of salt that the...
Mr. CHRISTOFF: Yes.
CONAN: Localities are able to buy and maintenance for the roads.
Mr. CHRISTOFF: Well, it's been a snowy winter so far, so that's exacerbated the problem. But governments have really been feeling the pinch in the last few years because the state has cut or frozen that revenue sharing money that I spoke of. They count on that money a lot for basic services.
And it's true. You drive around, and you see more piles of snow. They're slower to get to it at the state and the county and local level. So you hear that quite a bit. But as I said, part of the problem is, we've had a very snowy winter so far.
CONAN: Let's get a caller on the line from Michigan. This is Josh, Josh calling us from Lansing.
JOSH (Caller): Hi. How are you doing?
CONAN: Good. Thanks. Go ahead, please.
JOSH: Yeah. I'm a teacher from the area of Lansing, and I guess I just wanted to also bring into the conversation at least as far as Michigan is concerned the Big Three and...
CONAN: Oh, nobody's forgetting the Big Three.
JOSH: Yeah, exactly. Well, it's just - you know, as a teacher, I teach right down 96 from Detroit, and there's just a constant - I'm constantly nervous about how my job and the job of my colleagues and my wife, as well a teacher, is going to be affected by all this.
As of last year - at the end of last year, we thought we were both pretty safe. But today, my wife just got an e-mail from - I don't know if it's the superintendent or someone in the office that said there's going to be even more cuts. And now, we're not feeling so sure about that, and it all kind of trickles down from the security of jobs and you know...
JOSH: My kids - in any classroom, tons of kids have...
JOSH: Have parents that works for GM or something related to GM.
CONAN: Chris, you said education has been protected up until now. Does Josh have reason to worry?
Mr. CHRISTOFF: Well, I would worry. I mean I...
Mr. CHRISTOFF: You know, the state is the largest funding mechanism for schools the way we do it in Michigan. For the last 14 years, they shifted a good part of the funding mechanism to the state. So, it's much more evenly distributed that way. But I wouldn't expect very large cuts for the coming year. But I wouldn't be surprised to see for the first that the state might have to actually reduce funding.
Now, I hate to be, you know, holding a crystal ball. Nobody exactly knows what's going to happen. All I'm saying is that I think for the first time in many, many years, we may be facing that possibility.
JOSH: And I guess the other thing is with - the reason I'm worried about the kids with GM is that when the parents lose jobs, they leave the state if they can leave the state. They can sell their house...
JOSH: Or they foreclose, and we lose those kids, and then we lose revenue, and we lose teachers.
CONAN: It's just the spiral that finds a new bottom to that crater that Chris was talking about earlier.
MR. CHRISTOFF: Well, one of the...
CONAN: Go ahead, Chris.
Mr. CHRISTOFF: Yeah, one of the projections, in fact, is for next fiscal year that the state is going to lose 29,000 students through its public schools. So even at over a million students, that's still a big hit, and there has been an exodus, and there is real concern about that.
I mean, that's good for the state in a way because they actually pay out less money. It's based on enrollment. That's not good for school districts that lose students that have to absorb reduction in state funding. But they may not be able to actually make cuts in the classroom. So, it could make for a very tight year.
CONAN: Josh, thanks very muchm and we wish you the best of luck.
JOSH: Yes. Thank you.
CONAN: And Chris Christoff, thank you for your time today. Appreciate it.
Mr. CHRISTOFF: Thank you.
CONAN: Chris Christoff, Lansing bureau chief for the Detroit Free Press, with us from a studio at Michigan State University.
And this last word from Rebecca in Louisiana by e-mail. I work for the state of Louisiana at the Department of Revenue. We've heard that other state agencies were trimming their budgets by 20 percent. We got hit this morning. All other employees in my building will only work Monday through Thursday. I work as part of the mail processing units. So naturally, we work when the mail runs. We'll be working a lot of overtime during the next few months due to a shortage of employees. I for one am thankful that people still pay their taxes recession or not.
Your state in a recession. Stay with us. When we come back, we're going to be talking about the movie that swept the big awards at the Golden Globes last night, "Slumdog Millionaire." Stay with us. It's the Talk of the Nation from NPR News.