With state revenues in a free fall and the economy choked by the worst recession in 60 years, governors and legislatures are approving program cuts and, to a smaller degree, tax increases that were previously unthinkable.
All but four states must have new budgets in place less than two weeks from now — by July 1, the start of their fiscal year. But most are already predicting shortfalls as tax collections shrink, unemployment rises and the stock market remains in turmoil.
“Legislators have never dealt with a recession as precipitous and rapid as this one,” said Susan K. Urahn, managing director of the Pew Center on the States. “They’re faced with some of the toughest decisions legislators ever have to make, for both political and economic reasons, so it’s not surprising that the environment has become very tense.”
In all, states will face a $121 billion budget gap in the coming fiscal year, according to a recent report by the National Conference of State Legislatures, compared with $102.4 billion for this fiscal year.