NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) – States are poised to pass as much as $24 billion in tax and fee hikes in coming weeks, as they struggle to balance their budgets amid the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, a report released Thursday found.
The spike blows away the $726 million in recommended increases for fiscal 2009.
At the same time, state budgets are set to shrink for a record second year in a row. The recession has caused tax collections to plummetandthe need for social services to soar. State officials are scrambling to close last-minute budget gaps that opened after April tax revenues came in below already-lowered estimates. States may be forced to tap rainy day funds or impose even more stringent spending cuts to balance their budgets before their fiscal years end on June 30.
Governors' proposed budgets for fiscal year 2010 show a 2.5% decrease in general fund spending, which comes after an estimated 2.2% decline in the current fiscal year,
This is the largest pullback in the survey's 30-year history and the first time state spending would decline for two years in a row, according to
the National Governors Association and the National Association of State Budget Officers. General fund spending, which is not earmarked for specific uses, covers mainly education, Medicaid, corrections, public assistance and transportation.
Some 29 states are recommending tax and fee increases for the coming fiscal year.
California, which is struggling to close a $21.3 billion budget gap, accounts for $11.3 billion of the hike. Illinois makes up another $4.4 billion, while New York is proposing $4 billion in additional levies.
Hikes in personal income taxes account for $8.8 billion, while sales taxes are set to rise $6.5 billion. Higher cigarette taxes would bring in $1.5 billion, while corporate taxes would rise $539 million.
States also are dipping into their rainy day funds to pay the bills. The funds' balances totaled 9.1% of expenditures in fiscal 2008, but have declined to 5.5% in the current year. However, excluding Texas and Alaska, the funds' balances dip to 3.6% of expenditures. A balance of 5% of expenditures is considered a relatively adequate cushion.
Though demand for state services is up, officials are slashing spending on a wide range of government programs.
Some 28 states have proposed cutting spending on higher education and personnel, while 27 want to reduce funding for K-12 education. Another 25 states have proposed cuts to Medicaid and corrections, while 23 are reducing funds for public assistance.
State officials predict tight times through fiscal 2011 and possibly 2012 since state fiscal recovery historically lags a national economic rebound.
They are currently facing an estimated $230 billion in budget gaps between fiscal 2009 and fiscal 2011.