America's 5 Worst Deadbeat States

Deficits and unemployment have five states facing frightening fiscal crises.

ByABC News
February 16, 2010, 5:21 PM

Feb. 17, 2010— -- If global markets ever get tired of fretting over the debt situation in Europe there's certainly no shortage of cash-strapped government entities in the United States that give cause for concern.

Setting aside the exploding federal deficit situation, set out to take a close look at the 50 states from a variety of economic and demographic factors, including total population, projected 2010 budget deficits, credit ratings, foreclosure rates, energy costs, total outstanding debt and unemployment.

Here are the five states spiraling most dangerously toward insolvency:

With a fiscal year 2010 budget gap of nearly $52 billion, or 56 percent of its total general budget, California is hands down the poster child of fiscally imperiled states. It also enjoys the dubious distinction of having the single worst credit rating (A-) of any of the 50 states, as measured by Standard & Poor's.

Factor in an above-the-national-average unemployment rate of 12.4 percent, severe political dysfunction – a two-thirds majority is required to pass a budget, making any semblance of shared political sacrifice practically a nonstarter – as well as the fact that California consumes three times more energy than it produces, and it becomes painfully clear that the Golden State is hurtling toward a very dark place.

"It's revealing, and probably not a coincidence, that the states in the most trouble are the ones that have energy-consuming populations that dwarf the energy the states are able to produce," said Gregor Macdonald of and an Amherst, Mass.-based energy sector analyst and noted financial blogger.

California also has the country's second largest food stamp program, pointed out Elizabeth McNichol, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

"The recession is causing state and local tax revenues to fall steeply at the same time that high unemployment and rising poverty are increasing the need for state services such as Medicaid and other programs that serve the poor and near-poor," McNichol said. "The change in the number of food stamp recipients is the single best early warning measure of what is happening to poverty in a state."