by Karl Kurtz
Stories about how legislatures are cutting state budgets are so ubiquitous that we haven't covered this topic in The Thicket. There's already a well-worn path to our web page, State Measures to Balance 2010 Budgets.
How legislatures are cutting their own budgets has drawn less attention. Travel bans for legislators and staff are common around the country, and legislative employees have been required to take furloughs like all other state employees. Massachusetts state senators gave themselves unpaid furloughs as well in a symbolic move that saved $50,000. This week the California Assembly announced 10 percent cuts in members' budgets for staff and operating expenses, which is estimated to save $2.3 million annually.
In one of the more unusual budget cutting moves, the Maine Legislature has passed a constitutional amendment to downsize the House from 151 to 131 members. Maine's House districts are some of the smallest in the country with approximately 8,400 people in each constituency. The size reduction will change that number to 10,000 per district and is estimated to save $1.5 million over two years. (For background on this subject, see "What's the Right Size for a Legislature?")