I love finding leaks in our budget, plugging them, and reaping the savings from doing so. I have done this by unplugging our electrical appliances when not in use, grocery shopping every other week instead of every week, doing the drugstore game, and subscribing to Netflix instead of going to the DVD store (my husband and I had quite the bad habit of racking up late fees each month).

Now that cities and states are facing unprecedented budget gaps due to the recession and Americans tightening up their wallets, they also have made it their job to find leaks and plug them as quickly as possible. While some tactics have been no-brainers, others are quite interesting, scary, and just plain strange. Here’s a list of some of my favorites:

Creative Government Budget Cuts

  1. Closing Rest Stops: New York State is closing six highway rest stops, with a total savings of $490,000 for this fiscal year and $1.1 million in years to come.
  2. Early Release of Prisoners: California, Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Oregon, and Wisconsin have released prisoners early.
  3. Tax on Driveways: Mission, Kansas has instituted a driveway tax of $72 for residents and $3,558 per year for small businesses in order to raise $1.2 million per year for future road improvements.  
  4. Sales Tax on Digital Downloads: Wisconsin and North Carolina have expanded their sales tax to include digital downloads. Wisconsin has imposed a 5% tax on digital downloads—music, games, books, ring tones and other video entertainment—which will raise approximately $6.7 million annually. New York expected to see a $50 million rise in sales revenue in 2008/2009 fiscal year.
  5. Claiming Unclaimed Property: Michigan has passed legislation to sign over unclaimed property—gift card balances, tax refunds, safety deposit boxes—more quickly to generate an estimated $208 million for fiscal year 2012.
  6. Sunday Sale of Liquor: Michigan will now allow the sale of liquor on Sunday mornings at establishments that purchase a $160 license.
  7. Stop Printing Statutes: Missouri passed legislation to stop printing copies of the state’s ‘blue book’ guide to politics and statutes, saving $1.7 million (and a lot of trees).    
  8. No More Toilet Paper: Newark, NJ cut toilet paper supplies to its government buildings for fiscal year 2010. This along with other measures (such as no Christmas decorations during the holiday season) saved the city $10-$15 million last year.
  9. Less Snow Removal: The city of Philadelphia will no longer remove snow if less than 12 inches has fallen.
  10. Increased Tax on Cigarettes: Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, and many other states increased the tax charge on cigarettes.  

Have you heard of any others worthy of mention?

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Comments to 10 Creative Ways States and Cities are Plugging Leaks in Their Budgets

  1. Callboxes on high-traffic highways! I know CA saved a ton by getting rid of these! (Or better still, make them solar powered!)


  2. Nice list of creative budgeting maneuvers. It will be interesting to see if any of these states can manage to collect sales tax from out of state internet retailers like Amazon.


  3. As someone who has been on NJ unemployment for a few months, I received, every two weeks, a printed confirmation of the amount of the direct deposit check I received, the amount of taxes taken out of it, the total amount I’d gotten and paid taxes on, and the remaining amount I could claim. Got a notice at the end of December that I would no longer be receiving that confirmation, so they could save the $ for printing and mailing it. They are also stopping the mailing of checks; you must have direct deposit.


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