Falling Short: How Far Are States’ Budgets In The Red?

It’s no secret that state governments have been having budget problems in the last several years. Some — more than others.

When you look at the big picture, the total amount of budgetary shortfalls nationwide, you’ll see the situation has gotten consistently worse: from a cumulative $40 billion shortfall in 2002 (the heart of the early 2000′s recession) to $191 billion in 2010 (the Great Recession) and, a slight improvement, $130 billion in 2011. A budget shortfall occurs when the services provided by the state cost more than the money the state collects.

Lately, the state most often and prominently singled out for its budgetary troubles has been California, with a shortfall of a whopping $17.9 billion, the largest in the country. We give you all these numbers in this infographic, but decided to also put things in perspective. Sure, California’s total shortfall is astounding, but that is also the country’s biggest state. So in addition to calculating each state’s shortfall as a percentage of its budget for fiscal year 2011, we also decided to calculate shortfalls on a per-capita basis. The results may surprise you.