Recessions: State and Local Budget Pressures and Priorities in Challenging Times

Some effects could come soon, but policymakers face significant long-term uncertainty

Recessions: Managing the Budget Squeeze
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State governments play a fundamental role in the lives of residents by collecting taxes and then using that revenue to pay for schools, transportation, public safety, and many other policy priorities. In particularly challenging times, when revenue is volatile and priorities may need to be reassessed, it is important that lawmakers manage states’ budgets effectively to mitigate fiscal stress. Although leaders cannot control many external factors that influence state fiscal health—such as global economic conditions, federal policies, or demographic changes—they do decide how to react to those events. And these actions can help determine whether a state remains fiscally sound.

In this series of publications, experts at The Pew Charitable Trusts examine how state leaders are reacting to the current fiscal landscape. Each explores the limits that states face when preparing for the next recession and provides key considerations that leaders can keep in mind when making budgetary decisions. It also details fiscal and economic policy recommendations for managing effectively during unforeseen events—such as the COVID-19 outbreak—and preparing for a downturn.

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Four Steps to Reduce the Harm of State Fiscal Distress

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Four Steps to Reduce the Harm of State Fiscal Distress

Research by The Pew Charitable Trusts points to four steps that state governments can take to prepare for temporary budget distress caused by economic downturns or other adverse events, such as the coronavirus pandemic. These strategies offer a roadmap for limiting the damage caused by uncertainty and volatility.

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State Websites Offer Fiscal Data on Local Governments

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Most states require local governments to submit financial data—typically on an annual basis—and at least 38 now present that local fiscal data on easily accessible online platforms to give the public easy access to important information on their cities, towns, and counties.

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Declines in Tourism Take Toll on Many States Revenues

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Hawaii’s economy thrives on tourism and all the dollars spent at hotels, restaurants, and attractions throughout the state. So when the COVID-19 pandemic forced business closures and grounded air travel in March, the islands sustained a major economic blow.

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Fiscal 50

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Fiscal 50: State Trends and Analysis, an interactive resource from The Pew Charitable Trusts, allows you to sort and analyze data on key fiscal, economic, and demographic trends in the 50 states and understand their impact on states’ fiscal health.

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