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Arkansas is among those states expecting to see a slight bump in tax revenue for the fiscal year that begins July 1, but it will not be enough to significantly restore funding to slashed programs and services. Worries about the strength of the economic recovery linger, making state officials hesitant to spend, said Richard Weiss, head of the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration.

“There are a lot of clouds out there, and there’s a lot of headwind out there that we’re very concerned about,” he said.

Twenty-nine states are spending less from their general funds today than they did before the recession, according to a recent joint survey from the National Governors Association and the National Association of State Budget Officers.

More than 30 states have raised taxes since the recession began, but some of those increases were temporary and are expiring soon, as in Arizona. With the economy slowly reviving and unemployment rates dipping, many governors and lawmakers say they don’t want to jeopardize the recovery by raising taxes again.

But tax revenue is not expected to grow enough to make up for the impact of four years of dismal economic times. Rainy-day funds, internal transfers and other one-time sources have largely been tapped, so governors and lawmakers must look for new places to cut spending.

“They’ve done the easy cuts and only a few have budget reserves left,” said Elizabeth McNichol of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank. “There aren’t really things that are sacrosanct any longer.”

Changes to public employee retirement benefits and sweeping reforms to health care programs such as Medicaid are among the most likely targets.

At least 17 states project budget gaps for the next fiscal year, while a handful need to balance budgets in the remaining six months of the current budget year. The revenue of all 50 states combined remains $21 billion below 2008 levels, according to the National Governors Association-NASBO report.

Budget gaps in states projecting shortfalls in the 2012-13 fiscal year are estimated to total $40 billion. By comparison, California alone closed a deficit of $42 billion in 2009, during the worst of recession.

The nation’s most populous state is again facing budget troubles, but the problem appears more manageable than during the past few years.

Even so, Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown and state lawmakers have fewer options to close the $13 billion shortfall that is projected over the next 18 months.

In December, Brown ordered $1 billion in midyear spending reductions to public schools, universities and social services because tax revenue did not meet projections. The state has given school districts the option of slicing another seven days from the current school year, now 175 days long. That already is five days shorter than before the recession.

Low-income seniors and the disabled will get less in-home care when the reductions start in January. School advocates warn that an estimated 1 million students will have trouble getting to class with a drop in home-to-school transportation funding.

“The cut to transportation is absolutely devastating,” said Steve Henderson, a lobbyist for the California School Employees Association. “What that means is a lot of low-income and rural kids will not have the ability to get to school.”

Brown has proposed a 2012 ballot initiative to raise $7 billion annually through 2016 by boosting income taxes on individuals making $250,000 or more a year and increasing the state sales tax by a half-cent. He also has submitted a plan to the Legislature to revamp public employee pensions.

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