The Great Recession has severely tested the strength of state finances and the soundness of state budget practices. Quarterly state tax revenues have declined year-over-year for a record five quarters, from the fourth quarter of 2008 through the fourth quarter of 2009.1 The depth of decline is also unprecedented, with a 16.5 percent drop in the second quarter of 2009. An immediate consequence is that states are facing massive fiscal shortfalls, triggering rounds of tax increases and service cuts, plus reliance on federal stimulus money, reserves, one-off actions, and borrowing against the future. The Third District states (Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania) have been similarly affected. Examining how each state is coping with the worst fiscal crisis of the last half-century sheds light on their respective fiscal practices and raises questions for further research.

  1. For this comparison, the Rockefeller Institute’s State Revenue Report (April 2010) used nominal data from the Census Bureau going back to 1962.