Readily available tax statistics tell state and local policymakers the amount and mix of revenues that their governments receive. However, these officials pose harder fiscal questions than simply how much money is flowing into their coffers and from what sources. They frequently ask, What is our states capacity to raise revenues, regardless of how much we actually collect? To what extent do we utilize that capacity? Is our revenue capacity sufficient to finance our states need for public services? These questions are especially salient today, given that during state fiscal year 2002 (FY2002) revenues in most states fell far short of their targeted levels.
Questions surrounding the issue of fiscal adequacy are difficult to answer definitively. In previous articles appearing in this Review (Tannenwald 1998, 1999), we evaluated interstate differences in fiscal capacity and fiscal need for FY1994 and FY1996. Prior to these efforts, the U.S. Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (ACIR) developed indicators providing such interstate comparisons for several (but not all) years from FY1962 through FY1991. This article presents such comparisons for FY1997.