States on Life Support via Federal Stimulus Funds

By Rich Miller and Anthony Feld
June 14 (Bloomberg) — Spending cuts by state and local governments from New York to California may act as a drag on the economy into 2011, only the second time in more than a half century that such reductions have restricted growth for three consecutive years.

States face a cumulative budget gap of $127.4 billion as 46 prepare for the start of their fiscal year on July 1, according to a report this month by the National Governors Association and the National Association of State Budget Officers. They will have to fill that hole largely on their own, as aid from the federal government under programs including President Barack Obama’s $787 billion stimulus package starts to wind down.

State and local cutbacks may trim growth by about a quarter percentage point in 2010 and 2011 after shaving it by 0.02 point in 2010, said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics Inc. He also sees the governments lopping payrolls by 200,000 during the next year after reducing them by 190,000 in the 12 months through May.

“The budget cutting that is dead ahead will be a significant impediment to economic growth later this year into 2011,” he said in an interview.

That impact will help convince Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke and his colleagues to keep the federal funds rate banks charge each other for overnight loans at zero to 0.25 percent through the end of this year, said John Lonski, chief economist at Moody’s Capital Markets Group in New York.

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