Government Spending

Unemployment: The New Next State Crisis


States are just an embarassment of looming fiscal messes. Now the very useful ProPublica site focuses on the short-term unemployment insurance problem:

So far 25 states have borrowed more than $25 billion to keep benefits flowing after their trust funds ran dry. In many other states the situation is deteriorating fast.

Our new unemployment insurance tracker monitors states' trust funds using the most up-to-date data available on the Web – and projects the health of funds six months into the future. To help readers understand the roots of each state's fiscal fiasco or success it also pulls together other helpful information and historical data that can be downloaded. According to our projections, Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, Kansas, Maryland, Massachussetts, New Hampshire, Tennessee and Vermont will find themselves in the red within six months.

And while states' poor fiscal planning is a serious topic on its own, our tracker also follows the increasing human toll: so far businesses in 36 states face tax increases this year, ranging from a few dollars per worker to more than a thousand. Six states have moved to cut, freeze or otherwise restrict benefits, a  number that is likely to increase. (See our breakdown of states' projected increase in taxes —and cuts in benefits.)

Reason magazine is on top of the state government spending crisis beat. Unemployment insurance payouts are at least something that be expected to go down post-downturn, but the forthcoming pension explosion will haunt us for long to come. See our February 2009 cover feature on the unhappy topic.