Aid to States Absent in State of the Union Address

  • January 26, 2011
  • By John Gramlich
President Obama's call on Tuesday night (January 25) to slash spending and attack the national deficit is a familiar one for the nation's governors, many of whom have outlined the same priorities in their own speeches to legislatures in recent weeks. Governors from both parties have focused intently on spending cuts as they prepare for what is likely to be their hardest budget year yet , given the expiration of federal stimulus dollars and the surging demand for state services, such as Medicaid.

Meanwhile, Obama's State of the Union address left little doubt that more federal assistance to the cash-strapped states is unlikely.

The president outlined a five-year freeze on annual domestic spending and — unlike when he signed the stimulus plan into law nearly two years ago — did not mention the ailing condition of state finances. That did not escape the notice of at least one governor who attended the speech: Connecticut's Dannel Malloy, who said Obama set a "tough tone" that now must be heeded by state officials everywhere.

"In a culture where we have consistently looked to Washington to do more, the idea that Washington in fact may be incapable of doing more is a scary thought," Malloy told the The Connecticut Mirror . Malloy himself promised in November that he would be "very aggressive in going after federal money," The Mirror noted.

For Malloy, a Democrat, and other governors facing staggering budget shortfalls, the Republican takeover of the U.S. House of Representatives — and Obama's vows to rein in spending — seem to have cemented the fact that Congress will be less hospitable to the idea of funneling money to the states, and certainly not in the form of another major assistance package.

"There will not be a federal bailout of the states," Eric Cantor, the GOP House majority leader, said earlier this week