The Best and Worst Run States in America: A Survey of All 50

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11. Kansas
> Debt per capita: $2,406 (12th lowest)
> Budget deficit: 8.1% (33rd largest)
> Unemployment: 5.7% (tied-10th lowest)
> Median household income: $50,241 (25th lowest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 14.0% (23rd lowest)

Kansas had funded just over 56% of its pension obligations as of 2012, worse than all but five other states. Additionally, Moody’s has a negative outlook on the state’s credit rating, citing both the state’s underfunded pension, as well as its plans to eliminate income taxes. However, several components of the state’s economy performed well in 2012. The state’s 5.7% unemployment rate and its 10.2% underemployment rate were among the lowest in the nation. Also, Kansas faced a budget gap of just 8.1% in fiscal 2012, less than the state average of 15.5%. And while median home values declined nationally between 2007 and 2012, they rose 7.3% in Kansas. The state’s foreclosure rate was barely half the national rate.

12. Washington
> Debt per capita: $4,148 (16th highest)
> Budget deficit: 16.9% (13th largest)
> Unemployment: 8.2% (tied-17th highest)
> Median household income: $57,573 (12th highest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 13.5% (19th lowest)

Washington’s GDP rose by 3.6% in 2012, faster than all but three other states. Strong funding for its pension obligations also helped the state’s rating. Washington had funded more than 98% of its pension obligations in 2012, the second highest nationally. The state’s median household income and percent of households living below the poverty line were both better than the national average. The Tax Foundation gave Washington strong marks for its business climate, citing no individual income tax on earnings, dividends, or interest payments, although the state does tax a number of business transactions that are untaxed in many other states.

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13. Delaware
> Debt per capita: $6,429 (7th highest)
> Budget deficit: None
> Unemployment: 7.1% (tied-23rd lowest)
> Median household income: $58,415 (10th highest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 12.0% (12th lowest)

Despite high levels of debt as of fiscal 2011, Delaware holds a top credit score from both Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s. More than 88% of Delaware’s aggregate pension liabilities were funded as of last year, a higher percentage than all but five other states. The state was also among America’s wealthiest, with a median household income of $58,415 in 2012. Despite this, Delaware had one of the nation’s highest violent crime rates that year, with nearly 550 violent crimes per 100,000 residents. Crime is especially problematic in the city of Wilmington, where the number of shootings so far this year has already reached record levels.

14. Virginia
> Debt per capita: $3,285 (23rd lowest)
> Budget deficit: 12.2% (20th largest)
> Unemployment: 5.9% (13th lowest)
> Median household income: $61,741 (8th highest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 11.7% (9th lowest)

By many economic measures, Virginia is doing very well. The state had an unemployment rate of just 5.9% in 2012, compared to a national rate of 8.1%. Median household income was more than $10,000 higher than the national median. Virginia benefits from its close proximity to D.C. The Washington-Arlington-Alexandria metro area, which includes the northern part of the state, had a median income of more than $88,000 last year — more than $36,000 higher than the U.S. median. While the state’s pension funds were just over half funded on aggregate as of last year, Virginia’s general debt still receives a perfect credit rating from both Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s. The commonwealth also had the fourth-lowest violent crime rate in the country.

15. Montana
> Debt per capita: $4,290 (15th highest)
> Budget deficit: None
> Unemployment: 6.0% (14th lowest)
> Median household income: $45,076 (12th lowest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 15.5% (25th highest)

Montana was one of just eight states that did not need to close a budget shortfall going into fiscal 2012. State revenue came to just under $8,000 per resident as of fiscal 2011, and the Montana government spent roughly $7,100 per person that same year. However, the state still had a considerable amount of debt per capita, and Montana’s pension obligations were just 63.9% funded as of the end of 2012, compared to a 72.4% rate of pension funding across the nation. The state’s credit is rated just AA by Moody’s, putting it in the bottom half of the states. Montana’s poverty rate was roughly in line with the national rate in 2012. On the other hand, the state had the highest percentage of adults with a high school diploma, at 92.8%, compared to the 86.4% of adults nationwide.

16. Tennessee
> Debt per capita: $925 (the lowest)
> Budget deficit: n/a
> Unemployment: 8.0% (tied-19th highest)
> Median household income: $42,764 (7th lowest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 17.9% (tied-11th highest)

The Tennessee economy grew roughly 3.3% last year, better than the nation’s 2.5% growth. About a third of the increase in GDP came from growth in durable goods manufacturing, which includes the state’s growing auto industry. The state is home to auto plants owned by Nissan, General Motors, and Volkswagen. Tennessee had the smallest debt in the country relative to its size, at just $925 per resident as of fiscal 2011. Several negative factors, however, lowered the state’s ranking. Tennessee was the most crime ridden in the country last year, with a violent crime rate of 643.6 incidents per every 100,000 people. In the city of Nashville, the state’s capital and second largest city by population, the rate was nearly double that.

17. Oregon
> Debt per capita: $3,650 (22nd highest)
> Budget deficit: 24.0% (5th largest)
> Unemployment: 8.7% (11th highest)
> Median household income: $49,161 (23rd lowest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 17.2% (tied-15th highest)

Oregon has been among the fastest-growing states in the U.S. since 2010. And in 2012, it had the third-highest real GDP growth rate in the country, at 3.9%. Much of its economic growth was attributable to durable goods manufacturing, which includes computers and electronics. Worldwide leader in semiconductor chips, Intel Corp., is the largest private sector employer. Despite the state’s growth, Oregon’s poverty rate of 17.2% was above the national rate of 15.9%, and more than one in five households in Oregon depended on food stamps last year, more than any other state. According to Stateline, recent cuts to SNAP, better known as the food stamp program, will lead to fewer benefits for more than 300,000 children in Oregon.

18. Massachusetts
> Debt per capita: $11,309 (the highest)
> Budget deficit: 5.5% (37th largest)
> Unemployment: 6.7% (16th lowest)
> Median household income: $65,339 (6th highest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 11.9% (11th lowest)

Massachusetts’ tends to spend a great deal on its population. In particular, it spent about $640 more per person on public welfare than the average state. It had more than $74 billion in debt in fiscal 2011, or 131% of the state’s revenue. Massachusetts had, by far, the most debt of any state. State debt across the 50 states accounted for about 50% of revenue, on average. A positive factor for the state is its residents’ health coverage. In part because of the comprehensive health insurance program implemented by former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney in 2006, residents easily have the highest coverage rate in the country. Only 3.9% of the population did not have health insurance in 2012, compared to less than 15% nationwide.

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19. Indiana
> Debt per capita: $3,405 (25th highest)
> Budget deficit: None
> Unemployment: 8.4% (tied-14th highest)
> Median household income: $46,974 (19th lowest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 15.6% (24th highest)

Indiana is part of a heavily industrial region of the U.S. that, due to declining economic activity, has come to be known as the “rust belt.” In Indiana, 28% of GDP came from the manufacturing sector in 2012, the highest rate in the country and more than double the national figure. The state’s exports were higher than the national average last year as well, at $5,259 per capita. But, according to Moody’s, the state’s exposure to manufacturing poses a challenge is exactly the challenge it is facing. Indiana still receives perfect ratings from both Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s. As reasons for its rating, Moody’s cited the state’s “conservative fiscal management,” and its “willingness to make budget adjustments as necessary in response to revenue declines.” Indiana also has one of the country’s most business-friendly tax climates, according to the Tax Foundation.

20. Idaho
> Debt per capita: $2,489 (16th lowest)
> Budget deficit: 3.6% (39th largest)
> Unemployment: 7.1% (tied-23rd lowest)
> Median household income: $45,489 (15th lowest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 15.9% (tied-22nd highest)

Idaho’s government has relatively conservative spending habits, if the last few years are any indication. The state spent just $5,510 per resident in fiscal 2011, putting it just outside of the 10 lowest spenders. Revenue was roughly $6,600 per resident that year. The state had just a 3.6% budget shortfall as of fiscal 2012, one of the smallest in the country. As of the end of that year, the state had funded nearly 85% of its aggregate pension obligations. While Idaho may be doing a better-than-average job managing limited resources, the state’s economy appears to be struggling. Idaho’s GDP grew just 0.4% last year, worse than all but a handful of states. The state was one of the hardest hit in the region during the housing price collapse, the effects of which could be still seen in the high foreclosure rate last year.