Pew Releases 2009 State Legislative Review

Contact: Andrew McDonald, 202.552.2178

Washington, DC - 08/27/2009 - State lawmakers this year made deep cuts, raised taxes, and borrowed funds to cover a staggering $215 billion in estimated budget gaps for 2009 and 2010—the equivalent of nearly $700 for every man, woman and child in the country, according to the annual 2009 Legislative Review released this month by, a project of the Pew Center on the States (PCS).

The report, online at, offers:

  • Summaries of how each state closed its budget gap and used federal stimulus funds; and
  • Trends developing in key areas, such as education, energy and health care.
“This was a year of fiscal reckoning for states of every size, in every region of the country,” said Sue Urahn, managing director of PCS. “The challenges are far from over — states will face even tougher choices in the next couple of years.”

Even with the federal stimulus package providing billions of dollars in assistance, California, Kentucky, New York, Nevada and Washington struggled with the largest deficits in modern history. The report shows most states took dramatic measures to balance their ledgers for 2010. Among the findings: 

  • At least 18 states raised personal income and/or state sales taxes, with seven states levying higher taxes on those in upper-income brackets; 
  • At least 18 will collect more revenue in cigarette and/or alcohol sales; 
  • Some 35 states cut higher education spending or increased tuition;
  • At least 26 states slashed funding to prisons, including seven that reduced spending by more than 10 percent and another seven states closed prisons entirely;
  • Seventeen states forced state employees to take furloughs or unpaid leave, affecting well over 830,000 employees, and at least six offered state employees buyouts; 
  • At least four states are forcing Medicaid patients to pay more for their care and at least eight states cut optional benefits under Medicaid, the joint federal-state program that provides health coverage to more than 60 million low-income people;
  • Seven sought new gambling revenue, including Delaware, which will join Nevada this fall as the only states to allow sports betting. Ohio approved some 17,500 slot machines at race tracks and Illinois added video poker at bars. is a nonprofit, nonpartisan online news site that practices journalism in the public interest by reporting on emerging trends and issues in state policy and politics. It is a project of the Pew Center on the States. The Pew Center on the States is a division of The Pew Charitable Trusts that identifies and advances effective policy approaches to critical issues facing states.  By researching emerging topics, Pew Center on the States highlights innovative policy approaches to complex problems for states.

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