Carrie Lukas is the vice president for Policy and Economics at the Independent Women’s Forum.

Those who prefer tax increases to spending cuts rely on the tried-and-true tactic of claiming that any spending reduction will take food from the needy and quality education away from children. That’s the justification being used for Congress’s latest effort to send the states a $26 billion bailout: Absent the federal money, proponents argue, states will have to fire teachers and other public workers, and children will suffer.

Taxpayers shouldn’t buy this logic. State government spending-and, in particular, spending on education-has ballooned in recent years. There is plenty of room to cut without sacrificing essential programs or hurting education quality.

For fiscal year 2011, states are expected to face a combined budget shortfall of about $144 billion. That’s a lot of money, but it’s important to keep this spending gap in perspective. In the five years between 2003 and 2008 (that’s the last year Census had the complete data), state and local governments increased annual spending by more than $500 billion so that total spending reached more than $2 trillion.

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