The U.S. economy may be creeping toward recovery after the worst slowdown since the Great Depression, but many states see no end in sight to their diving tax revenues.
Tax revenues used to pay teachers and fuel police cars continue to trail even the most pessimistic expectations, despite the cash from the economic stimulus plan pouring into state coffers.
“It’s crazy. It’s really just unbelievable,” said Scott Pattison, executive director of the National Association of State Budget Officers, and called the states’ revenue situations “close to unprecedented.”
Most states had been pessimistic in forecasting their tax revenues for the 2010 fiscal year, Pattison said. So far, collections have fallen below even those low targets.
Lower tax revenues could lead to higher taxes or another sharp reduction in services if receipts do not show signs of improvement before year-end, as every state but Vermont is required by law to balance their budgets.
That could mean fewer teachers, early prisoner releases and fewer highway repairs as residents battle soaring unemployment.
States are coming off a terrible first quarter, which for most states began on July 1.