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“Sin taxes” are often viewed as budget savers, despite their rather small role in the state budgets. In fiscal year 2016, states raised $25 billion in tax revenues from the two most commonly taxed so called “sins,” like tobacco and alcohol, which represented slightly over 2.7 percent of total state tax revenues. States are more likely to raise taxes on tobacco products than on alcohol, even though both pose a significant public health threat. Since 2000, 48 states increased cigarette tax rates about 130 times, while very few states increased tax rates on alcohol. Despite the increases in tax rates on tobacco, inflation-adjusted tobacco tax revenues declined by 0.8 percent between fiscal years 2008 and 2016. The opposite is true for alcohol taxes. Despite the relatively stable tax rates on alcoholic beverages, inflation-adjusted alcohol tax revenues grew by 12.2 percent over the same period. Tobacco tax revenues declined because declines in consumption more than made up for higher tax rates. The growth in alcohol tax revenues is largely attributable to growth in alcohol consumption.

How do states develop and manage their budgets, and how does this process vary across states? The latest edition of NASBO’s Budget Processes in the States report provides self-reported data from all 50 states and the District of Columbia on many aspects of state budget practices, such as: the budget calendar, revenue forecasting, gubernatorial budget authority, balanced budget requirements, tax and expenditure limitations, debt restrictions, approaches to budget development, rainy day funds, tools to monitor and control expenditures, and the use of performance measures.

Overall, state fiscal conditions weakened in fiscal year 2016 compared to the prior year. Both revenue growth and total state spending experienced a slowdown due to numerous factors. In addition, the number of states making mid-year budget cuts was historically high outside of a recessionary period. In fiscal 2017, it is projected that both state general fund spending and revenue will grow moderately. However, since the start of the fiscal year, over half the states have had to revise their revenue projections downward due to weaker-than-anticipated tax collections. Looking forward, states are not only contending with slow revenue growth and constrained spending, but also federal uncertainty in a number of areas.

Chapter 7 of The Book of the States 2017 contains the following articles and tables:

Voters decided 162 state-level ballot propositions in 2016. Voters approved 47 initiatives, the most in a single year in American history. California pulled into a tie with Oregon for the most initiatives all time. High profile issues included marijuana legalization, labor markets and capital punishment.

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