Governors and legislatures are keeping spending growth at its lowest level since the recession to make sure they're prepared for the next one.
In the face of a politically and financially uncertain fiscal 2018, states are hunkering down, pulling back on spending increases and beefing up rainy day funds.
General fund revenues for fiscal 2017 are coming in below forecasts in 33 states, according to a new survey by the National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO). That’s the highest number since the recession, and it also marks the second straight year that more states have failed to meet projected revenues than exceeded them. As a result, it’s increasingly likely that more states will be forced to make spending cuts (23 have already reported doing so).
The survey also finds that thanks to states’ “thin margins,” spending for fiscal 2018 will tick up by a mere 1 percent -- the lowest growth rate since 2010, when states were in the midst of dealing with the recession. Most of those spending increases will be targeted toward education, where many states are still trying to make up for cuts following the recession, and Medicaid.
Despite slow revenue growth -- or perhaps because of it -- governors and legislatures in many places are prioritizing saving money for the next economic downturn. After a slight dip in 2017, rainy day fund balances are expected to hit the highest total ever at more than $53 billion across 48 states. (Georgia and Oklahoma were not able to provide data.)