At least seven other states — among them Connecticut, Utah and Wisconsin — have reported budget surpluses in recent weeks, setting the stage for legislative battles that, if not as wrenching as the ones over cuts, promise to be no less pitched. Lawmakers are debating whether the new money should be used to restore programs cut during the recession, finance tax cuts or put into a rainy-day fund for future needs.
The debate reflects uncertainty about whether the revenue is a one-time event, a result of state taxes on wealthy residents selling off investments at the end of last year to avoid increased costs as the Bush-era federal tax cuts expired. But it also illustrates philosophical differences about the role of government, about spending versus taxes and about the need, as Mr. Brown argued, to learn lessons from a decade in which many states saw the bottom fall out from their revenue collections.
“We’re seeing a change in conversation in state legislatures this year,” said Todd Haggerty, a policy analyst with the National Conference of State Legislatures. “They’re not talking about how to close a budget gap anymore, which is a welcome relief after years of that during and after the Great Recession. Rather, states are having conversations about how to allocate increased revenues.”