Revenue wilted, states rely on cuts to meet budget
Trapped in a revenue wasteland, U.S. states have cut spending by $290 billion over the last five years, with the largest reductions coming this year, according to a think tank that tracks state fiscal conditions.
In fiscal 2012, which for most states began last July, cuts totaled $140 billion, "almost as much as the combined total for the previous four years," according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
The recession began at the end of 2007 but did not affect state revenue until 2008. When the downturn struck, states tapped reserves, relied on increased federal aid and raised taxes as they sought to close a total of $600 billion in budget gaps over five years. All states except Vermont must end their fiscal years with balanced budgets.
But most states favored axing spending. CBPP found in its quantification of recession-related budget measures that since 2008, states have enacted almost $3 in spending cuts for every $1 in new revenue.
"The lack of balance between revenue and spending was most pronounced in fiscal year 2012, as reserves dwindled, federal aid largely expired and states enacted even fewer tax and fee increases," according to CBPP.