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Thursday, May 14, 2009

As we mentioned in yesterday's post, almost every state in the nation is facing budget deficits because of the weakened economy. The federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act includes roughly $140 billion in fiscal relief for state governments. But the recovery act funding will only be enough to fill about 40 percent of the $350 billion to $370 billion shortfall that states will face in the next two-and-a-half years.

According to a new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, at least 36 states have addressed their shortfalls by cutting spending. As the report notes, cuts in state budgets worsen the recession by reducing overall economic activity. Reductions in state spending translate into fewer state jobs, canceled contracts with vendors, lower payments to businesses and nonprofits that provide services, and cuts in benefit payments to individuals.

Importantly, cuts in state spending also particularly hurt the most vulnerable residents in the state. The report outlines five areas in which states have made cuts. Washington State has made cuts in all of these areas.

  • Public health programs: At least 19 states have implemented cuts that will affect low-income children’s or families’ eligibility for health insurance or reduce their access to health care services.

  • Programs for the elderly and disabled: At least 21 states plus the District of Columbia are cutting medical, rehabilitative, home care, or other services needed by low-income people who are elderly or have disabilities, or significantly increasing the cost of these services.

  • K-12 education: At least 22 states are cutting K-12 and early education.

  • Colleges and universities: At least 30 states have implemented cuts to public colleges and universities, resulting in cuts in faculty and staff and tuition increases of 4 percent to 15 percent.

  • State workforces: At least 39 states and the District of Columbia have made cuts affecting their state workforces. At least 27 states and the District of Columbia have instituted hiring freezes, 10 have announced lay-offs, 15 have reduced state worker wages, and several have delayed scheduled pay increases (including cost of living adjustments).

Click on the chart to see a state-by-state view of cuts in these budget areas.

Tomorrow we will post on states that have raised taxes to help close budget deficits during the current recession.

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