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The Willis Report

Economic Recovery, or Higher Taxes?

Finally some good news for state governments—but it doesn't mean they're out of the woods yet.

According to the Census Bureau - total tax receipts hit nearly $1.5 trillion in 2010 - that is back near the peak tax revenues of 2007.

The Wall Street Journal says one of the reasons is the reviving economy, and the other is that we're paying more in taxes.

Tax hikes boosted state revenue by more than $12 billion last year - totaling a 2% gain. Income tax revenue alone jumped nearly 11% in the last quarter of 2010 - compared with the same time in 2009. Sales tax revenue is up nearly 2% for that period.

So why are states still facing record budget gaps for 2012, and continuing to shed hundreds of thousands of jobs?

Two reasons—first, states can no longer rely on the federal government for help now that the $150 billion in stimulus funds have dried up. And second, the pension and health care promises governments made to their employees.

States already have as much as $3 trillion in unfunded pension liabilities, and many are also losing billions due to double-dipping. That's where employees are getting both a government paycheck and a pension.

Reports show in 2009 - more than 5,600 California retirees were double-dipping, up 57% from 1999. In Ohio, 32,000 government employees took home a billion dollars in pension funds - while still getting a paycheck. That's not counting the more than 150 school superintendents doing the same thing.

And in Texas, more than 6,000 state workers took home $400 million in double-dipped funds, in addition to 22,000 public school and university workers

States are no doubt in trouble - and residents have done their part by paying more in taxes. It's time government employees did theirs and stop allowing workers to game the system.

It's bad enough they have outrageous tax-payer funded benefits - but to get that on top of a tax-payer funded paycheck is too ridiculous for words.

Be sure to catch the Willis Report on the FOX Business Network every weekday from 5-6pm ET.

Gerri Willis joined Fox Business Network (FBN) in March of 2010. Willis is an anchor and personal finance reporter for the network.

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