Nicholas Johnson

Nicholas Johnson is director of the State Fiscal Project at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Recent Articles

Digging Out, Planning Ahead

The federal government needs to do more to help states survive this downturn -- and plan for permanent anti-recession fiscal relief.

Feb. 17, 2009, was a historic day for the economic relationship between the federal government and the states. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, signed into law that day, constituted an effort of unprecedented scope by the federal government to keep states and localities in the business of providing services and to prevent state budget cuts from dragging down the economy. This step was needed because states and localities generally have to balance their operating budgets no matter what economic conditions prevail, while the federal government can and should run deficits during economic downturns. The new law is sending hundreds of billions of dollars to cash-strapped states and localities. Some of the money is earmarked for very specific purposes, like highway spending or environmental investments. But much of it is relatively flexible aid to keep education, health care, public safety, and other key functions going. From sheriff's deputies in Virginia to child-care providers...