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Though the Great Recession may be officially over, all is not well in Arizona. Three years after the collapse of a massive real estate “bubble,” the deepest economic downturn in memory exposed and exacerbated one of the nation’s most profound state fiscal crises, with disturbing implications for Arizona citizens and the state’s long-term economic health. This brief takes a careful look at the Grand Canyon State’s fiscal situation, examining both Arizona’s serious cyclical budget shortfall—the one resulting from a temporary collapse of revenue due to the recession—as well as the chronic, longer-term, and massive structural imbalances that have developed largely due to policy choices made in better times. This primer employs a unique methodology to estimate the size of the state’s structural deficit and then explores the mix of forces, including the large permanent tax reductions, that created them. It also highlights some of the dramatic impacts these fiscal challenges are having on service-delivery as well as on local governments. The brief suggests some of the steps state policymakers must take to close their budget gaps over the short and longer term. First, it urges better policymaking, and prods leaders to broaden, balance, and diversify the state’s revenue base while looking to assure a long-haul balance of taxing and spending. And second, it recommends that Arizona improve the information-sharing and budgeting processes through which fiscal problems are understood—so they may ultimately be averted.


Arizona; Budget deficits; Economic history; Finance; Public; Recessions


Economic Policy | Economics | Policy Design, Analysis, and Evaluation | Policy History, Theory, and Methods | Public Affairs, Public Policy and Public Administration | Public Policy | Social Policy | Sociology