Some States Need Special Sessions to Address Fiscal Problems

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With summer in full swing and state fiscal years largely underway, most state legislators probably think that they're done with the heavy lifting, at least policy-wise, for the year. Yet, due to the poor condition of the nation's economy, tax revenue in a number of states is falling well short of expectations, reopening budget gaps that policymakers thought they had closed. For instance, the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute this week issued a report that estimates that the deficit for the current fiscal year (FY09) could reach as much as $2 billion, due to weak sales and personal income tax collections. The report calls for legislators to return in September to address the shortfall. As the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports, Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Hill has already indicated that a variety of options for resolving any potential deficit will be considered, including undoing recent tax cuts.

In New York, where the fiscal year begins in April, the problem may be more prospective than retrospective, but that didn't stop Governor David Paterson from calling this week for a special legislative session to address the Empire State's burgeoning budget deficit. According to the latest analysis from the state's budget office, the expected budget gap for FY 2010 has risen from $5 billion to $6.4 billion in the span of three months, with a three-year deficit now exceeding $26 billion. With his request for legislative action, particularly with the entire Legislature up for election this November, the Governor would appear to be a paragon of fiscal responsibility, except that he is simultaneously demanding a property tax cap that would make matters worse. For more on alternatives to the Governor's property tax plan and on the state's fiscal condition generally, visit the Fiscal Policy Institute's web site.

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