Turns Out Taxpayers Care About Fiscal Responsibility

According to a new report by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, the larger the state budget deficit, the larger the decline in state government approval ratings:

Most states are struggling during the recession and nearly all are facing revenue shortfalls. The balance of opinion regarding state governments has turned negative in states with the largest budget gaps — the size of the shortfall relative to the state’s overall budget. In the 12 states facing the largest budget gaps, 58% now have an unfavorable view of their state governments while only 38% have a favorable view. In April 2008, opinion was evenly divided in these states (48% favorable, 47% unfavorable).

But the change in opinion is not limited to the states with the biggest budget problems; people in 19 states with more modest budget gaps also are expressing more negative views of their state governments. Currently, a slim majority (52%) in these states has a favorable view while 40% have an unfavorable view. In April 2008, favorable views outnumbered unfavorable ones by a wide margin (64% vs. 35%). By contrast, opinion has remained more stable in the states with the smallest budget gaps. Six-in-ten have a favorable view of their state government while only a third has an unfavorable view.

Until state policymakers get serious about reducing the size and cost of government, I’d predict that we’ll see those numbers increasing. The latest deficit estimates from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities pegs a total of 48 states that have to close an estimated $350 billion in budget deficits for fiscal years 2010 and 2011.