Tim Pawlenty Minnesota (R)
Pawlenty was elected on a pledge not to raise taxes--a tall order for a man facing a $4.5 billion shortfall. He balanced the budget with a little help from semantics. His tobacco "health impact fee" looked suspiciously like a tax. Regardless, Minnesota recorded a $1 billion surplus in 2005.
Rod Blagojevich Illinois (D)
To erase the $5 billion deficit he inherited, Blagojevich eliminated 19 agencies and cut the state work force by 13,000. It wasn't pretty, but it worked.
Rick Perry Texas (R)
Perry faced a $10 billion shortfall in 2003. A bipartisan effort helped balance the budget by trimming the fat in state agencies--although ending the franchise tax exemption infuriated many LLPs.
Kathleen Sebelius Kansas (D)
She did away with a $1.1 billion deficit by auditing all state agencies carefully. Her plan involved some debt, but it preserved funding for education and avoided new taxes.
Janet Napolitano Arizona (D)
Like Sebelius, she erased a $1 billion shortfall without raising taxes. Today, Arizona's rainy day fund contains a record $648 million.