Steve Chapman writes on Reason.com that there's nothing surprising about the crises in state budgets though it apparently caught many governors and legislators by surprise. States dramatically increased spending during good economic times, expecting they would last forever, and failed to prepare for a economic downturn--even though history indicates there will be recessions every few years:
The crisis in state budgets is not an accident, and it wasn't unforeseeable. For years, most states have spent like there's no tomorrow, and now tomorrow is here. They bring to mind the lament of Mickey Mantle, who said, "If I knew I was going to live this long, I'd have taken better care of myself."
If they had known the revenue flood wasn't a permanent fact of life, governors and legislators might have prepared for drought. Instead, like overstretched homeowners, they took on obligations they could meet only in the best-case scenario—which is not what has come to pass.
Over the last decade, state budgets have expanded rapidly. We have had good times and bad times, including a recession in 2001, but according to the National Association of State Budget Officers, this will be the first year since 1983 that total state outlays have not increased.
The days of wine and roses have been affordable due to a cascade of tax revenue. In state after state, the government's take has ballooned. Overall, the average person's state tax burden has risen by 42 percent since 1999—nearly 50 percent beyond what the state would have needed just to keep spending constant, with allowances for inflation.