Legislative budget analysts raised their estimate of Arizona's midyear budget shortfall to nearly $2 billion, up from approximately $1.5 billion. The growing shortfall, roughly a fifth of the budget, prompted calls to cut spending, increase taxes and raid voter-mandated programs.
The Joint Legislative Budget Committee staff on Thursday cited the latest drops in tax collections, increased spending for safety-net programs and newly reduced expectations from some budget-balancing maneuvers as it boosted its shortfall estimate on the current state budget.
Other elements of the shortfall already included a nearly $500 million deficit carried over from the last fiscal year and about the same amount of budget savings lost when Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed parts of the budget on Sept. 4.
The budget has roughly $10.1 billion of state spending, including $1.1 billion funded by federal stimulus dollars. Before being augmented by the federal money, borrowing and other maneuvers, regular state tax collections provide only $6.4 billion.
Arizona's economy has been hit hard by the recession, and economists said Thursday the recovery will be slow and long.