Budget battles come down to the wire in other states, too


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If misery really does love company, Californians can for the moment feel a little better -- or at least a little less worse -- about the budget crisis in Sacramento.

From the Wall Street Journal tonight:


Ten states were scrambling Monday to pass budgets before a Tuesday deadline, with a handful -- including Arizona, Indiana and Mississippi -- facing the possibility of partial shutdowns if their legislatures don’t act in time. The number of statehouses where budget wrangling has gone down to the wire this year is unusually high, analysts said, and reflects the difficulty legislatures and governors are having coping with income- and sales-tax collections that continue to run far below already low forecasts. All but four states begin their fiscal years on Wednesday, and all except Vermont require that their budgets be balanced. States without budgets in hand include California, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Delaware, Illinois, Ohio and Connecticut, where Gov. Jodi Rell, a Republican, has said she will veto the budget passed by the Democrat-controlled Legislature.

My colleague Nicholas Riccardi noted in a Times story over the weekend that Arizona faces a bigger budget shortfall than California, measuring the deficit as a percentage of the general fund. . . .

From Riccardi:

Arizona finds itself in a particularly challenging spot. A shortfall of more than $3 billion amounts to 30% of its annual budget, a higher proportion than even California, which faces a 26% shortfall.Scott Pattison of the National Assn. of State Budget Officers said that it’s almost impossible to compare state budget deficits because accounting differs so widely but that Arizona’s situation is ‘among the worst, if not the worst.’Arizona’s predicament has been made more difficult because voter initiatives as in California) mandate how one-third of the state’s money must be spent. The only way to raise taxes is through a practically unobtainable two-thirds majority in the Legislature or via a simple majority at the ballot box. Like California did this spring when it asked voters to approve a series of tax hikes, Arizona is putting the hard choices on the electorate.

-- Tom Petruno