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Lights out on payday loans (access required)

Next year, the Arizona Legislature will decide whether to eliminate payday lending in the state, which presents a dilemma for Republican lawmakers who will have to decide between their free-enterprise beliefs and a moral objection to the large fees on short-term loans.

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States look toward expanded gambling for revenue

Long after the recession ends, one of its most visible legacies is likely to be more places - and ways - for Americans to gamble. Pennsylvania lawmakers in October ended the nation's longest state budget standoff by counting on some $250 million in revenue that would be raised by legalizing and taxing casino table games, such as blackjack, craps and roulette.

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Phoenix-area cities paying retention bonuses

Cities in metro Phoenix are paying millions of dollars in retention bonuses as they lay off employees, cut pay or raise taxes amid the recession. Compensation experts question the wisdom of retention bonuses as the state's 9.3 percent unemployment rate has drastically reduced turnover. Cities defend the bonuses as an incentive to retain employees and make up for stagnant wages.

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Nightmare scenarios haunt states

One question keeps coming up as governors and legislators grapple with a seemingly never-ending stream of gloomy budget news that keeps getting worse: How bad can it get? The answer, according to experts and a look through history, is probably that it could get worse than it has been in a generation - maybe even a lifetime - but not catastrophic.

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Sale of state prisons running into wall of opposition (access required)

When lawmakers chose April Fool’s Day as the deadline to submit a plan to privatize the state’s prison system, they unwittingly telegraphed just how dubious the plan was. First, the whole idea of putting state prisons under private control was a difficult sell to the public. Then there was a question about how many of the state’s 10 prisons to auction off.

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State budgets: $28 billion short this year

Thirty-six states face budget shortfalls totaling $28 billion in the fiscal year that began just five months ago, according to a new 50-state report. The assessment predicts another $56 billion in shortfalls across 35 states next fiscal year and $69 billion in shortfalls across 23 states the year after that.

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Lottery big part of state’s financial plans, but first voters must vote to keep it

While other contributors to state revenues have dropped off severely of late, the Arizona Lottery has been a growing source of tens of millions of dollars per year since its inception in 1980. The lottery funds a variety of voter-approved state programs in areas such as education, health and transportation and has contributed $2.3 billion in all to its beneficiaries.

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