Monday, September 20th, 2010 - 5:45
Tuesday, September 7, 2010 - 12:42
Even as states were beginning to get more money, and more responsibilities, from the stimulus act, they were shrinking their capacity to spend and perform.
Some days ago, we featured thoughts from Charles Harvey, Nevada’s Recovery Act director, about his state and the stimulus. But we left out an important topic that Harvey brought up – one that we’ve been thinking about ourselves for some time: Governments that are coupling dramatic budget cuts in some areas with huge new stimulus-supported programmatic responsibilities in others are going to have headaches.
“Given Nevada's economic state,” he says, “we had gone through several rounds of budget reductions and staffing reductions. That makes it a little more difficult to ramp up and start spending the [stimulus] money when it starts flowing in. We basically cut down to skeleton crews and asked them to complete this spending with a level of transparency and accountability that was previously unknown."
All told, Harvey thinks the state and the nation both could learn a lot from this experience about how to plan and implement future federal-state interactions, especially during economic downturns. “We could better prepare in the future," he says.
For the time being, however, the state isn’t out of the woods. “We may have to again reduce staffing,” Harvey worries, “and we'll still be expected to complete these projects and meet the needs of the public.”
These problems are hardly unique to Nevada. But that state confronted an additional hardship. It got a late start in preparing for stimulus money, thanks to a lively debate about whether or not the state would accept stimulus funds altogether, and if so, for which projects and programs. Harvey himself didn’t start in his role until September of 2009, about seven months after ARRA was signed into law. “I think other states may have ramped up, which gave them a better capacity to put that money into action,” Harvey says. “We had to basically double back and put in place a plan.”