States Most Unprepared for This Deep Recession
The Bayou State depends heavily on oil and gas revenues. With oil prices well below $30 a barrel, it will be hit harder than most states as this recession in particular causes energy prices to fall due to lower demand.The state’s reserves are only 4% of the state’s general fund, well short of the nearly 26% cushion that’s needed for this deep recession.
The Prairie State’s reserves are tiny at 1.6%. A severe pension funding shortfall, a high level of debt, and perennial political budget gridlock are three of the challenges Illinois faces in trying to build its reserves. The recession will add greatly to these burdens.
The Sooner State also depends heavily on oil and gas revenues, with mining accounting for nearly a quarter of the state’s economy. Yet, because of the oil price bust, only 29 wells are still operating in the state, down from more than 100 less than a year ago. States with economies that are heavily dependent on commodities need to have hefty fiscal reserves to carry them through boom-bust cycles, but Oklahoma’s are not enough.
In the Garden State, reserves are only 3% of the state’s general fund, and there are obstacles to increasing them: Public pensions are severely underfunded, and New Jersey pays the 4th-highest debt service ($4 billion per year), after California, New York and Illinois. The recession will add greatly to these burdens.
The Bluegrass State is vulnerable because its reserve balance is low — just 3% of the state’s general fund. Kentucky’s state employees pension fund is only 16% funded, the lowest funding level of any large public pension in the country. The shortfalls were severe even before the recession.
At first glance, it might seem the Sunshine State is doing okay with 8% reserves. However, Florida’s economy is more vulnerable to the national recession than most. The state’s economy depends heavily on tourism, which is likely not coming back for a while, and on housing construction.
The Granite State is proud that it has no income tax or general state sales tax. But that makes it hard to build reserves because the state has to cobble together revenue from multiple sources.Corporate income tax accounts for a third of the state’s revenue; a quarter comes from taxes on restaurant meals, room and car rentals and telecom services; and 10% from the tobacco tax. Tax revenue from these sources will be hit hard in this recession.