Government Spending


Hey, Big Spender


Usually, it's the federal government that takes most of the flak for taxing and spending. But the Cato Institute periodically gives state governments the evil eye, courtesy of its "Fiscal Policy Report Card on America's Governors." That's a good thing, since states spend a sizeable portion of every American's income—roughly 9 percent on average.

Cato's 2002 report card finds that, thanks to an explosion of state spending during the 1990s from $303 billion to $638 billion in current dollars, state governments overall spent $40 billion more than they took in last year.

It turns out that a politician's party affiliation doesn't predict his spending habits. Cato's analysts measured spending and taxation (both proposed and instituted, to help adjust for legislative power), then awarded scores based on the extent to which governors have cut both. Two of the most fiscally irresponsible governors were Republicans, and one of the most responsible was a Democrat.

Grading the Governors

Top Three

Bill Owens (R-Colorado) A (76)*

Jeb Bush (R-Florida) A (67)

Roy Barnes (D-Georgia) B (64)

Bottom Three

Don Sundquist (R-Tennessee) F (40)

Bob Taft (R-Ohio) F (40)

John Kitzhaber (D-Oregon) F (30)

*Each number represents an average of scores based on 17 different taxing and spending variables, each ranked on a 100-point scale.

Source: Cato Institute, "Fiscal Policy Report Card on America's Governors: 2002," by Stephen Moore and Stephen Slivinski, available online at