Six years after the recession ended, many U.S. states are hardpressed to balance budgets because of a sluggish recovery and theirown policy decisions. The fiscal fragility raises questions abouthow they will weather the next economic downturn.

A majority of states are making cuts, tapping reserves or facingshortfalls despite an improving national economy and stock marketsat record levels, according to Standard & Poor's and the NelsonA. Rockefeller Institute of Government. State revenue hasn'trebounded to a prerecession peak adjusted for inflation, and otherfactors are putting pressure on budgets.

Alaska, Oklahoma and energy-producing states saw receipts fallwith global oil prices. Kansas overestimated revenue after taxcuts, while New Jersey faces a shortfall thanks to unfundedpensions. Even some Republican governors have championed taxincreases to avoid further diminishing services curtailed duringthe 18-month recession, the deepest downturn since the GreatDepression.

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