Fourteen states have cut their fiscal 1986 budgets to avert year-end deficits, including several that reduced spending for education, according to a joint report by the National Governors’ Association and the National Association of State Budget Officers.
A 15th state, Louisiana, is expected to announce huge cuts early next month, according to a NASBO official.
Many of the states that have reduced their budgets did so early in the fiscal year, including Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Nebraska, and Oklahoma. (See Education Week, Nov. 20, 1985.)
Others, however, approved the cuts only recently. Among those states are Hawaii, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont, and Wisconsin.
Minnesota and Wisconsin made the largest reported reductions, cutting their fiscal 1986-87 budgets by $357 million and $247 million, respectively. Both states operate on biennial budgets.
In most states, the cuts have been applied across-the-board, as in Oklahoma, where Gov. George Nigh, a Democrat, ordered a 4.5 percent cut this year, hoping to halve an anticipated 9 percent fiscal 1986 shortfall.
In most states, K-12 education is the single largest line item in the state budget, and would thus assume the brunt of across-the-board cuts.
Other states, such as Mississippi, have made selective cuts, in some cases exempting education.
Mississippi, which cut $47.4 million in November, trimmed another $25.5 million in January and imposed a hiring and promotion freeze for state employees.
NASBO and the N.G.A. attribute the budget reductions to a “lackluster 1985 economic performance that has led to sagging state revenues” and to “uncertainty over the impact of the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings deficit reduction law on state budgets.”
Most of the cuts have occurred in energy-producing states and farm states, which have been particularly hard hit by changes in the economy.
But according to Gerald Miller, the NASBO executive director, many states are also reporting “weak sales-tax collections,” an indicator of more widespread economic troubles.
“The states do not share one monolithic economy. Rather, each has a distinctive economy that determines its fiscal health,” Miller said.
“However, if economic performance continues to stagnate, many states will be repeating the belt-tightening scenario of the 1981-82 recession years,” he said.
A version of this article appeared in the February 19, 1986 edition of Education Week