Today’s Economic Headlines: Gaps and Cuts

Economic news from Omaha, Detroit, Madison, and elsewhere

In national news, bank regulation will be on the agenda at the Supreme Court today, while the Senate and House will focus on credit card reform. HUD and the Treasury will also issue details on the Making Home Affordable Program. Regional news this morning echoes familiar themes: gaps in budgets and cuts in services, many on the education side.

Whiffs of fiscal pragmatism in the Omaha World-Herald’s dispatches this morning. The city is hosting the 2009 College World Series and is building a new baseball stadium for the event. Where did the money come from? About 40 percent of the $100 million project came from philanthropists. (Why didn’t New York think of that?). The state is also trying to decide how to bridge a $94 million dollar gap in its budget, because of lowered expectations for tax revenue. The legislature is considering cutting social services and education funding, as well as keeping fingers crossed for more stimulus money. (This Nebraska couple is obviously trying to scrimp on the essentials—they were both nude when pulled over.)

The Associated Press in Wisconsin reports that Madison’s food pantries and homeless shelters will receive $2 million in stimulus funding, with roughly 300 sites sharing the money. Meanwhile, the Wisconsin State Journal wonders if some companies laying off workers are doing so out of panic rather than necessity. The state’s unemployment rate was 9.4 percent in March. For those unemployed and shopping around for a new career, the What I Do column has first-person accounts from all sorts of professionals, including a crane driver and a chocolatier.

The Idaho Statesman finds that tight budgets are forcing cities to sever contracts with local ASPCA animal control agencies, and take on the job in-house. First Bank of Idaho was seized by the DFIC. It is the first Idaho bank to fail since 1988. The state’s finance department is investigating National Foreclosure Relief Inc. for mortgage scams. The company preyed on families threatened with foreclosure, charging high fees but never actually negotiating with the original lender. The paper also has a lucid, frank column about fiscal policy. The author, an economist, says, “You cannot close the deficit without raising taxes. Period.”

The Detroit News hits auto news hard this morning. The United Auto Workers have reached a preliminary deal with Chrysler, in which the union would own 55 percent of the company. The rank and file must vote to approve the concessions. In an analysis of how Obama has tackled the auto industry in his first 100 days in office, the News finds that the state has received $18.4 billion in stimulus money, on top of billions for the automakers. The administration’s latest plan to fix GM would make the U.S. government the majority shareholder.

Education will be hit hard in Florida, as the Miami Herald reveals this morning. High school sports will be slashed to save money. The state senate has approved a bill that will raise state university tuition by as much as 15 percent. And, in the face of the financial crisis, Florida International University will shift its focus from “growth to sustainability.” In sports news, ratings agencies will assess the bond proposal for the new Marlins stadium in Miami. The city and county will cover 80 percent of the cost, though maybe they should take a page from Omaha, and reach out to some philanthropists. Plus, The New York Times reported this morning that Florida will decline stimulus money, which doesn’t seem so smart given the news from the state.

Sour education news in New Jersey as well. The Star-Ledger reports that the state’s 529 fund, which is where parents can put aside money for their children’s college education, is on the worst-of list, because of its high fees, and too aggressive stance. On the other side of the Garden State, The Trentonian finds that a proposal to fire 177 cafeteria workers and 120 teachers from Trenton’s schools has been temporarily tabled.

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Katia Bachko is on staff at The New Yorker.