State Debt Management

State officials often choose to borrow money to finance large expenses, such as expanding a congested highway or replacing defunct wastewater treatment plants. By distributing the cost of a large investment over many years, governments can free up cash on hand to meet their current day-to-day expenses. Borrowing for long-lasting infrastructure, primarily by issuing bonds, also spreads the cost over generations of taxpayers, enabling states to finance multiple pressing needs simultaneously. As debt financing continues to be an attractive option for states seeking to bolster aging public facilities, utilities, and services, it is important for policymakers to understand how much debt they can afford.

However, policymakers often lack the data needed to make informed decisions about their debt—from appropriate borrowing levels to the way the debt is structured. Compounding this challenge, many states do not have systematic ways to collect, evaluate, and monitor debt-related data.

To address these difficulties, The Pew Charitable Trusts conducts research to help states better understand and administer their debt. Among the primary tools to do this is a debt affordability study, which helps states evaluate their capacity to repay existing obligations and make informed decisions on issuing and structuring any new debt.


Strategies for Managing State Debt

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As state budgets recover from the effects of the Great Recession of 2007-09, lawmakers are looking for ways to prepare for the next downturn. At the same time, states are increasingly interested in taking advantage of low interest rates to borrow money for key infrastructure projects that may have been put on hold during the recession

Fact Sheet

How States Can Assess the Affordability of Their Debt: 2017

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Fact Sheet

When a state government faces a large expense, officials often choose to borrow the money to pay for the project, freeing up cash on hand to meet day-to-day expenses. Borrowing for long-lasting infrastructure also spreads the cost over the generations of taxpayers who benefit from its use.

Additional Resources

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Antibiotic-resistant bacteria, also known as “superbugs,” are a major threat to modern medicine. But how does resistance work, and what can we do to slow the spread? Read personal stories, expert accounts, and more for the answers to those questions in our four-week email series: Slowing Superbugs.

Explore Pew’s new and improved
Fiscal 50 interactive

Your state's stats are more accessible than ever with our new and improved Fiscal 50 interactive:

  • Maps, trends, and customizable charts
  • 50-state rankings
  • Analysis of what it all means
  • Shareable graphics and downloadable data
  • Proven fiscal policy strategies


Welcome to the new Fiscal 50

Key changes include:

  • State pages that help you keep track of trends in your home state and provide national and regional context.
  • Interactive indicator pages with highly customizable and shareable data visualizations.
  • A Budget Threads feature that offers Pew’s read on the latest state fiscal news.

Learn more about the new and improved Fiscal 50.