The core question in American politics, underlying all facets of public policy debate, is the proper size and function of government. The range of opinions on the matter is evidenced not only in our national political discourse, but also in the wide variance in spending at state and local government levels.
State and local governments build parks and libraries, maintain law and order, and clear and maintain roadways. They operate municipal waste systems and are entrusted with educating our children. States also provide for the welfare of residents through a variety of support systems. Larger urban areas provide public transportation systems as well.
Differences in government spending per capita at the state and local level are driven by the priorities of local voters, economic conditions, and often also by geographic area and local climate.
24/7 Wall St. reviewed per capita government expenditure data from the U.S. Census Bureau to determine what your state spends on you. The average spending per capita varies from as little as $7,430 in one state to nearly triple that amount in others.
Generally, the states with higher government spending tend to be home to higher income residents. To be sure, many of the states with the highest per capita spending are also America’s richest states. This is no coincidence, as higher incomes provide a stronger tax base, and high-spending states also often are the same states where Americans are paying the most in taxes — although taxes on individuals are not the only source of government revenue.
Per capita government spending generally reflects the overall size and economic impact of the public sector, and many of the states spending the most are also the states with the largest governments, and vice-versa.