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Highlights

State and local governments work in partnership with the federal government to implement numerous intergovernmental programs. Fiscal pressures for state and local governments may exist when spending is expected to outpace revenues for the long term. GAO was asked to examine (1) the long-term fiscal pressures facing state and local governments and historical spending and revenue trends, (2) spending and revenue trends to identify patterns among states, and (3) what is known about the implications of these fiscal pressures for federal policies. Using aggregate data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis's National Income and Product Accounts, this analysis draws on results from the March 2010 update to GAO's state and local government fiscal model. GAO's model uses historical data to simulate expenditures and revenues for the sector for the next 50 years. Data from the U.S. Census Bureau are used to analyze patterns of state and local government expenditures and revenues among the states from 1977 to 2007, the most recent 30-year period for which these data were available. A review of GAO and other reports synthesizes what is known about the implications of these long-term fiscal pressures for future federal policies.

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