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.

Street map art, three prints in blue, white and black
Street map art, three prints in blue, white and black
Report

States Can Direct Economic Development to Places in Need

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Report

Data from an array of sources has shown that Americans who grow up in economically distressed areas experience lower-performing schools, higher crime rates, a variety of health and environmental hazards, and less upward mobility.

State and local governments relied in part on debt for budgetary help in 2020
State and local governments relied in part on debt for budgetary help in 2020
Article

State and Local Governments Relied on Debt for Help In 2020

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Article

State and local governments have sought a variety of ways to cope with the fiscal fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic and recession, including borrowing on the municipal bond market. But municipal bonds are commonly used to pay for major, long-lasting projects, so whether—and how—to use them to borrow for immediate budgetary relief can be a challenging question for government officials.

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Getty Images
Article

Four Steps to Reduce the Harm of State Fiscal Distress

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Article

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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fiscal 50
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Fiscal 50

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Data Visualization

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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