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

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31. New York
> 2017 unemployment: 4.7% (16th highest)
> Pension funded ratio: 90.6% (4th highest)
> 1 yr. GDP growth: +1.9% (20th highest)
> Poverty rate: 14.1% (16th highest)
> Moody’s credit rating and outlook: Aa1/Stable

As the population ages and a growing number of Americans enter retirement, many states are facing a dire pension crisis. New York is not one of them. The Empire State has funding for 90.6% of its pension obligations, well above the 65.9% average across all states. Still, New York is not without some budgetary shortcomings. The state has the equivalent of just 2.4% of its annual spending saved in a rainy day fund, smallest budget reserves of any state.

Like in many states that do not rank especially well, people are leaving New York faster than they are coming in. Between mid-2016 and mid-2017, over 60,000 more people left New York than moved to the state.

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32. South Dakota
> 2017 unemployment: 3.3% (10th lowest)
> Pension funded ratio: 96.9% (2nd highest)
> 1 yr. GDP growth: +0% (5th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 13% (25th highest)
> Moody’s credit rating and outlook: Aaa/Stable

South Dakota is in a better position to fully pay the pensions of former public employees than every other state except Wisconsin. South Dakota has funding for 96.9% of its total pension obligations, compared to the 65.9% average across all states. In other ways, South Dakota appears poorly managed from a fiscal standpoint. For example, the state has one of the lowest per capita tax revenues in the country and some of the most debt as a share of revenue. Despite high debt, Moody’s gives the state high marks for its ability to pay liabilities as South Dakota is one of just 14 states with a perfect credit rating and stable outlook.

Serious crimes are also more common in South Dakota than in much of the country. There were 434 violent crimes for every 100,000 people in the state in 2017, compared to the national violent crime rate of 383 per 100,000.

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33. South Carolina
> 2017 unemployment: 4.3% (25th highest)
> Pension funded ratio: 53.8% (10th lowest)
> 1 yr. GDP growth: +2.6% (9th highest)
> Poverty rate: 15.4% (9th highest)
> Moody’s credit rating and outlook: Aaa/Stable

Violence is a bigger problem in South Carolina than in most other states. There were 506 violent crimes for every 100,000 people in the state, far more than the national violent crime rate of 383 per 100,000. Financial hardship is also relatively common in the state. South Carolina’s 15.4% poverty rate is well above the 13.4% national rate.

In other ways, South Carolina is doing relatively well. People are moving to the state at a relatively rapid pace, and in the last year, South Carolina’s GDP increased by 2.6%, faster than most states and the 2.2% national economic growth that year. South Carolina also has a perfect credit rating and stable outlook from Moody’s.

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34. Montana
> 2017 unemployment: 4% (21st lowest)
> Pension funded ratio: 71.2% (25th highest)
> 1 yr. GDP growth: +0.3% (12th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 12.5% (22nd lowest)
> Moody’s credit rating and outlook: Aa1/Stable

While the state legislature is currently in talks to create a budget reserve fund, Montana is one of only a handful of states with no money set aside in a rainy day fund. Economic growth in the state is also weak. Montana’s economic output inched up by just 0.3% in 2017, lagging far behind the U.S. GDP growth of 2.2%.

In other economic measures, Montana performs only slightly better than the nation as a whole. For example, in 2017, 4.0% of workers in the state were unemployed, slightly below the 4.4% national unemployment rate. Similarly, Montana has funding for 71.2% of its pension obligations, marginally more than the 65.9% average across all states.

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35. Connecticut
> 2017 unemployment: 4.7% (16th highest)
> Pension funded ratio: 41.4% (4th lowest)
> 1 yr. GDP growth: -1.1% (the lowest)
> Poverty rate: 9.6% (5th lowest)
> Moody’s credit rating and outlook: A1/Stable

Connecticut ranks worse on this list than every other New England state except Rhode Island. The state’s economy contracted by 1.1% in 2017, the steepest GDP decline of any state. The flailing economy is likely due in part to the state’s higher than typical 4.7% annual unemployment rate and heavy outbound migration. From mid-2016 to mid-2017, 4,500 more people left the state than moved there.

Voters in Connecticut elected Democrat Ned Lamont as the new governor in November 2018 by a narrow margin over Republican Bob Stefanowski. Economic reform was a central component of Lamont’s campaign message. Lamont will replace Gov. Dannel Malloy, whose 14.6% approval rating leading up to the election was the lowest of any sitting U.S. governor in the country.