Polls: Voters oppose state bailouts and bankruptcy filings

A pair of polls are the bearers of bad news for state governments struggling with looming budget deficits, as a majority of voters oppose both a federal bailout of ailing states and allowing states to file for bankruptcy.

The polls, commissioned by Rasmussen Reports, indicate the public does not want to extend major lifelines to states with serious financial problems.

In one poll, just 26 percent of likely U.S. voters said they wanted the federal government to provide bailout dollars for individual states with major fiscal issues, while 53 percent said they would oppose such a policy. The remaining 21 percent were undecided.

States are struggling with a total budget gap of $110 billion for fiscal 2010 and will face an estimated gap of $82 billion in fiscal 2011, according to the National Council of State Legislatures.


Although no formal bailout proposals for states have emerged, several Republicans have already offered tough talk against the idea.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) told reporters on Jan. 24 that Congress would not push for any bailouts of states. One day later, he got an unexpected ally in House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), who agreed that the federal government cannot step in and rescue states struggling with their finances.

Currently, states do not have the legal ability to file for bankruptcy in an attempt to address financial problems. However, this week former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) called on Congress to authorize a new law giving states that ability. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush co-wrote the editorial touting the idea, which was published in The Los Angeles Times.

However, Rasmussen found in a separate poll that a majority of likely U.S. voters also opposed allowing states to declare for bankruptcy. Just 17 percent thought states should be able to pursue bankruptcy as an option, while 54 percent opposed the idea.

Cantor also has announced his opposition to bankruptcy for states, saying they currently have all the required tools needed to shore up battered budgets.