Government Spending

Are The Most-Broke States The Most-Democrat? Or Just The Most Taxed by DC?

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Via the must-read Washington Examiner comes this Forbes story about the sad state of the states:

Political Litmus Test: Bluest States Spilling The Most Red Ink

Powerful unions, big spending put Democratic states in deepest fiscal holes.

Want to know which states are in the worst financial condition? One telling indicator that might not immediately come to mind is whether most of its citizens identify themselves as Democrats.

The five states in the worst financial condition–Illinois, New York, Connecticut, California and New Jersey–are all among the bluest of blue states. The five most fiscally fit states are more of a mix. Three–Utah, Nebraska and Texas–boast Republican majorities and two–New Hampshire and Virginia–skew Democratic.

Read the whole story (and the larger package of which it is part) and then figure out how much it costs to move off-planet.

And also consider this less-partisan question: Why do blue states give so much to Washington and get back so little? According to Tax Foundation data from 2005 (the most recent I could find quickly), for ever dollar of tax money residents sent to the feds, here's what they got back:

Illinois: 75 cents (45th out of 50)

New York: 79 cents (42)

California: 78 cents (43)

Connecticut: 69 cents (49)

New Jersey: 61 cents (50)

Here's what the "five most fiscally fit states" got back:

New Hampshire: 71 cents (47)

Texas: 94 cents (35)

Utah: $1.07 (29)

Nebraska: $1.10 (25)

Virginia: $1.51 (10)

Let's not quibble about the political leanings ascribed to the various states (though we could: New York's state senate, for instance, has been a GOP stronghold for decades, suggesting that factors other than party affiliation play large roles in idiotic budget decisions). We know the basic reason why state budgets are in the crapper:

In the five years between 2002 and 2007, combined state general-fund revenue increased twice as fast as the rate of inflation, producing an excess $600 billion. If legislatures had chosen to be responsible, they could have maintained all current state services, increased spending to compensate for inflation and population growth, and still enacted a $500 billion tax cut. Instead, lawmakers spent the windfall. From 2002 to 2007, overall spending rose 50 percent faster than inflation. Education spending increased almost 70 percent faster than inflation, even though the relative school-age population was falling. Medicaid and salaries for state workers rose almost twice as fast as inflation.

Throw in liabilities for pensions, and you've got even bigger problems. Contra Forbes, this is not particularly a Red State-Blue State thang (witness the moocher mentality among all those red or leaning-red states above [and god bless New Hampshire, even if it does have state-run liquor stores; live free or die, whatever]). It's a state thing. And pretending that it's a Democrat thing is simply one way to let Republicans off the hook, which as George W. Bush could tell you at the national level, is never a good thing.