State tax collections have finally reached their pre-recession levels, according to new data from the Census Bureau. Those collections are now 0.4 percent higher than six years ago, after adjusting for inflation. This news is welcome, but not cause for celebration.
The recession of 2007-09 caused deep, sustained and unprecedented revenue losses. Revenue fell a record 12 percent in the average state, even deeper in states with the hardest-hit economy. And the recovery has been the slowest in decades (see graph).
These drastic revenue losses have prompted many states to make serious cuts to K-12 education, public colleges and universities, libraries, human services, and other public services. The sluggish recovery means that states are serving larger populations, including more school kids and more seniors, with the same amount of money as six years ago.