State governments are constitutionally granted the power to control taxes, make and enforce laws, and regulate commerce within their borders. With these tools, state governments across the country are ultimately responsible for keeping safe streets, balancing the budget, and promoting economic vitality. Some states have proven to be more adept than others at achieving these goals.
For the 11th consecutive year, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed economic indicators, budget allocations, and state balance sheets, in addition to a range of social measures to rank how well each state is run. Data came from a wide range of public and private sources, including public policy think tank The Pew Charitable Trusts and the U.S. Census Bureau.
Several indicators can point to fiscal mismanagement at the state level, including a minimal rainy day fund — funds set aside for budget emergencies — and less-than-perfect credit rating scores from ratings agencies. Many of these states are ranked lower on this list. Lower-ranking states also tend to have an underfunded pension system. Many states are facing a pension crisis, with pension obligations far outweighing available funds. Here is a look at every state’s pension crisis, ranked.
The ongoing public health and economic crises that have resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrate the wide range of ways that state governments across the country can respond to similar challenges. In recent months, some states have kept businesses open in the interest of economic vitality, often at the risk of spreading the virus more widely and rapidly. Others, meanwhile, have opted to shut down large segments of the economy in the hopes of slowing the virus’s spread. These different approaches reflect governments’ different priorities, and each has contributed to vastly different outcomes. Here is a look at the states where the virus is spreading the fastest.
It is important to note, however, that public health and economic data used to create this list are for 2019 and earlier. As a result, COVID-19 has not impacted this year’s rankings of the best and worst-run states. Additionally, a state’s relative ranking on this list is not necessarily attributable to sitting elected officials as governing strategies and budget priorities can have consequences that extend far beyond the tenure of those who set them.