We all watched last year as the federal government reeled from the worldwide recession. The government spent more money - a lot of it - to help lighten the recession's effects. Still, services have suffered: The Postal Service, for example, cut back its hours and once again is raising the price of a stamp.
We watched the state of South Carolina suffer in 2009, too. State employees lost their jobs as programs to assist the disabled, unemployed and others were downsized or eliminated.
Now, observers say, it is local governments' turn to feel the real pain of the economic downturn.
Teachers' jobs across the state were saved last year by an influx of federal money. What happens when the federal and state governments can't send more money? What happens when the stimulus money goes away?
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Do teachers lose their jobs? Does the size of classrooms swell? Does that make it more difficult for your child to learn?
Will county governments still be able to grade your roads and maintain your parks? Will city governments struggle to collect your trash and support community events and charities?
The pressure to raise taxes to maintain services will be enormous, as will the pressure not to raise taxes.
But while in years past, local politicians were able to say "No new taxes," this year they might not be so cocksure.
So what do we value? What do we cut? What are we willing to pay for no matter what?