The effects of state budget cuts on employment and income
Balanced budget requirements lead to substantial pro-cyclicality in state government spending outside of safety-net programs. At the beginnings of recessions, states tend to experience unexpected deficits. While all states ultimately pay these deficits down, differences in the stringency of their balanced budget requirements dictate the pace at which they adjust. States with strict rules enact large rescissions to their budgets during the years in which adverse shocks occur; states with weak rules make up the difference during the following years. We use this variation to identify the impact of mid-year budget cuts on state income and employment. Our baseline estimates imply i) a state-spending multiplier of 1.7 and ii) that avoiding $25,000 in mid-year cuts preserves one job. These cuts are associated with shifts in the timing of government expenditures rather than differences in total spending over the course of the business cycle. Consequently, our results are informative about the potential gains from smoothing the path of state government spending. They imply that states could reduce the amplitude of business-cycle fluctuations by 15% if they completely smoothed their capital spending and service provision outside of safety-net programs.
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