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Saving for a rainy day: estimating the appropriate size of U.S. state budget stabilization funds


  • Zhao, Bo

    () (Federal Reserve Bank of Boston)


Rainy day funds (RDFs) are potentially an important countercyclical tool for states to stabilize their budgets and the overall economy during economic downturns. However, U.S. states have often found themselves exhausting their RDFs and having to raise tax rates or reduce expenditures while still experiencing a downturn. Therefore, how much each state should save in its RDF has become an increasingly important policy question. To address this issue, this paper applies several new methodologies to develop target RDF levels for each U.S. state, based on the estimated short-term revenue component associated with business cycles and also on policymakers' preferences for stable tax rates and expenditures.

Suggested Citation

  • Zhao, Bo, 2014. "Saving for a rainy day: estimating the appropriate size of U.S. state budget stabilization funds," Working Papers 14-12, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedbwp:14-12

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Richard H. Mattoon & Leslie McGranahan, 2012. "State tax revenues over the business cycle: patterns and policy responses," Chicago Fed Letter, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, issue Jun.
    2. Wagner, Gary A., 2004. "The Bond Market and Fiscal Institutions: Have Budget Stabilization Funds Reduced State Borrowing Costs?," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 57(4), pages 785-804, December.
    3. Christian Gonzalez & Arik Levinson, 2003. "State Rainy Day Funds and the State Budget Crisis 2002-?," Working Papers gueconwpa~03-03-05, Georgetown University, Department of Economics.
    4. Morten O. Ravn & Harald Uhlig, 2002. "On adjusting the Hodrick-Prescott filter for the frequency of observations," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 84(2), pages 371-375.
    5. Clemens, Jeffrey, 2013. "State Fiscal Adjustment During Times of Stress: Possible Causes of the Severity and Composition of Budget Cuts," MPRA Paper 55921, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    6. Yilin Hou, 2005. "Fiscal Reserves and State Own-Source Expenditure in Downturn Years," Public Finance Review, , vol. 33(1), pages 117-144, January.
    7. Donald Bruce & William F. Fox & M.H. Tuttle, 2006. "Tax Base Elasticities: A Multi-State Analysis of Long-Run and Short-Run Dynamics," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 73(2), pages 315-341, October.
    8. Gary A. Wagner & Erick M. Elder, 2005. "The Role of Budget Stabilization Funds in Smoothing Government Expenditures over the Business Cycle," Public Finance Review, , vol. 33(4), pages 439-465, July.
    9. Erick M. Elder & Gary A. Wagner, 2013. "Revenue Cycles and Risk-Sharing in Local Governments: An Analysis of State Rainy Day Funds," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 66(4), pages 939-960, December.
    10. Gary Wagner & Russell Sobel, 2006. "State budget stabilization fund adoption: Preparing for the next recession or circumventing fiscal constraints?," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 126(1), pages 177-199, January.
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:ucp:tpolec:doi:10.1086/697140 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Timothy J. Goodspeed, 2016. "Absorbing Shocks: National Rainy-Day Funds and Cross-Country Transfers in a Fiscal Union," FinanzArchiv: Public Finance Analysis, Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 72(4), pages 407-420, December.
    3. Kodrzycki, Yolanda & Zhao, Bo, 2015. "Achieving greater fiscal stability: guidance for the New England states," New England Public Policy Center Research Report 15-2, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
    4. Jeffrey Clemens & Benedic Ippolito, 2018. "Implications of Medicaid Financing Reform for State Government Budgets," Tax Policy and the Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 32(1), pages 135-172.

    More about this item


    rainy day funds; budget stabilization funds; revenue cyclicality;

    JEL classification:

    • E32 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Business Fluctuations; Cycles
    • E63 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Comparative or Joint Analysis of Fiscal and Monetary Policy; Stabilization; Treasury Policy
    • H71 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - State and Local Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue
    • H72 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - State and Local Budget and Expenditures

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