State Governments

You'll Totally Guess Who Ranks Last in Cato's Grading of Governors' Fiscal Policies


Just the worst.
Credit: Neon Tommy / photo on flickr

The Cato Institute today released a report grading governors across the country over their recent fiscal policies and how well they've tried to rein in taxes and spending. The good news, according to Cato experts Chris Edwards and Nicole Kaedig, is that "we are in the midst of the best tax-cutting run since the late 1990s."

The governors ranking at the top of the list of fiscal responsibility were all Republicans while the governors at the bottom were all Democrats. There were some Dems with pretty good scores, though, like Lincoln Chaffee of Rhode Island and Andrew Cuomo of New York, both of whom have worked to make their tax environments more friendly and competitive for businesses.

Ranking dead last on the list, and it's not even really close, is California Gov. Jerry Brown, who has pushed forward big tax increases and budget increases and still wants to throw billions of dollars at the boondoggle of a high-speed rail. He scores a mere 19 points out of 100. The four governors earning A's from Cato were Pat McCrory of North Carolina, Sam Brownback of Kansas, Paul LePage of Maine, and Mike Pence of Indiana, all Republicans. Cato's summary of the four:

  • Pat McCrory of North Carolina signed a bill replacing individual-income-tax rates of 6.0, 7.0, and 7.75 percent with a single rate of 5.75 percent. He also cut the corporate-tax rate from 6.9 to 5.0 percent and repealed the estate tax.
  • Sam Brownback of Kansas approved a plan in 2012 replacing three individual-income-tax rates with two and cutting the top rate from 6.45 to 4.9 percent. The reform also increased the standard deduction and reduced taxes on small businesses. Brownback cut income-tax rates further in 2013.
  • Paul LePage of Maine signed major income-tax cuts in 2011, and he is pushing for further tax reforms. State spending has been roughly flat in recent years, and LePage has trimmed spending on welfare, health care, and other programs.
  • Mike Pence of Indiana has been frugal on spending and a champion tax cutter. He signed bills to cut individual-income-tax rates 5 percent (the current rate of 3.4 percent will fall to 3.23 percent in 2017) and repeal the inheritance tax. He also approved a corporate-income-tax rate cut and a major reduction in property taxes on businesses.

The full report doesn't just touch on taxes and spending. It also analyzes some current fiscal issues states struggle with from ballooning Medicaid costs to massive unfunded pension liabilities (and the challenges of actually trying to put a number on the beast). The report also knocks how many states' versions of tax cuts are actually designed to favor certain selected industries over others (movie industry tax credits are smacked around) rather than making states more hospitable to all comers.

Take a look at the full report here. Scroll down to page 14 for governor-by-governor summaries.

NEXT: Here's the Full Text of Obama's Speech Today

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Lincoln Chaffee? I thought he was a "moderate" Republican.

  2. Tony just showed up on the poll thread, bottom-fishing as usual.

    1. Tony is like tilapia.

  3. Yes, but now rank the governors according to feelings and social justice.

  4. Well, we still grow all your food.

    /lights Pro L signal

    1. All our crappy, pseudofood, likely manufactured by the Soylent Corporation.

      Except for avocados. And maybe grapes.

      1. I have an avocado tree in my backyard. I'll trade you a few pounds for a pellet gun to take care of these pesky thieving squirrels.

        1. No worries--I'll send you a python.

          1. I hope that's not an assault python. With a shoulder thing. I understand those to be illegal in the Peoples Republic of California.

            1. Oh, right, you lack the Second Amendment protections out there. Um [roots around the house]. . .how about a trained alligator? He's people-friendly and will eat pretty much anything. Breaks the ice at parties, too.

              1. CA has gotten away with most of its absurd gun laws (the recent San Diego case excluded) with the argument that "Well, our state constitution makes no mention of the right to keep and bear arms." All of a sudden they're states' rights advocates.

                1. All of a sudden they're states' rights advocates.

                  So, racists.

          2. That gets rid of the squirrels but what will get rid of the pythons?

            1. Nothing gets rid of pythons. Ever.

                1. One of the best things about being in the python restaurant business is that the supply always exceeds the demand. It's practically pure profit for us.

  5. Montana - Steve Bullock (D) - Spending Score: 29

    Well, I guess we're above Hawaii, Colorado, and Ohio...

    1. Montana is disappointing. It should be tens of thousands of crazed individualists dedicated to freedom above all else. Yet it isn't.

      1. Indian reservations.

  6. I'm sure Bullock would be happy to spend a lot more if those evil bastard rethuglitards would let him.

    1. That fucking guy...

      Oh, I guess we're above Oregon, too. Suck it, Oregon!

  7. At the state level, we are seeing more and better libertarian or at least libertarian-friendly action than we have least my lifetime. This kind of thing tends to percolate up the political ladder, which is why I'm cautiously optimistic about America's political near and medium term.

    1. An optimistic libertarian? A team will be sent to have you reeducated.

      1. Make sure to send it to the 51st state where Cyto lives.

  8. Go LePage! You got my vote!

    1. My last act before moving to New Hampshire was voting for LePage.

      For those not familiar with him, you should read his background. His family was so disfunctional he was living on his own at age 11. Talk about pulling yourself up by your bootstraps. The man is the opposite of all the privileged ivy league Top Men who would presume to rule us.

      1. Sounds like a great story to have on a president run.

        1. LePage is blunt and perhaps a little crude, but he seems genuine and sincere in his beliefs. He'd never make it through the media grinder. Funny how a guy like Christie is perceived as blunt and a little crude, yet as a clearly calculated political persona, HE is a contender.

      2. I think he'll win again. Elliot Cutler will spoil it for Michaud who, in case you didn't hear, came out of the closet. If you don't vote for him you're a homophobe.

        1. So, gay guy vs blue collar man. Tough choice.

          Living in NH now, so I need to decide to grit my teeth and vote for Scott Brown, merely to dislodge Jean Shaheen. I'm starting to see the merit in this "not voting" idea.

          1. "So, gay guy vs blue collar man. Tough choice."
            This describes my favorite pornography.

  9. Scott really got worried about not getting re-elected and dropped all of the cockblocking he was doing against spending increases and against setting up the stupid exchanges. So he took a nosedive. I suppose there's hope he'd get more ballsy for the second term, but, in any event, he's like a philosopher king compared to his Tanned Venalitiness, Charlie "Hamiltonian Tan" Crist. I think he has SCUMBAG tattooed on his chest.

    1. He won't get more 'ballsy' in term 2 but the next recession will disfavour all those grand projects he's let the state embark on.

      1. I'm not a fan, but boy, do I despise Charlie Crist. I was absolutely shocked to see him coast through the nomination. I figured the Dems would hate him, too. That's the power of the plaintiffs' bar for you.

        1. I hate Scott but...I'd vote for him to shoot down Crist. Sometimes 'lesser evil' is the right choice.

          1. No way in hell am I voting for Scott. I'm voting for Wyllie (LP candidate). Don't give a crap if it's a vote that means that Crist will win.

            1. Understandable, but probably wrong.

            2. I almost always vote for the LP and have argued quite strenuously against the "BUT YOU CAN"T VOTE LP BECAUSE DEMOCRATS," but I have to admit that my loathing for Crist and the people pushing him is tremendous. I could conceivably vote for Scott because of that. I'd say I'm still slightly more likely to vote LP, but there's Crist, staring at me with his evil, beady eyes.

              Incidentally, in case anyone doesn't think his campaign is 95% about making the field even more open for profitable litigation in the state, I'm getting deluged by Crist campaign e-mails at work. Considering that the only things that get through our spam filter are those connected to the bar, it must be that he's spamming all of the attorneys in the state.

  10. "Just the worst."

    Dayum, Nicole has really let herself go.

  11. Fucking Moonbeam. Although he's just the personification of the mass stupidity that blows like a constant wind through this state. The weather over the past two years has been terrible; the winters almost bone dry, and the summers unusually humid. The weather and the geography are the only reasons to stay in CA, well that and family. If the weather continues to suck, might just have to get a move on.

    1. The worst part is that Moonbeam is not the worst CA could do. He is far more reasonable than many I was shocked when he vetoed the Ghost Gun bill.

      1. Holy Shit! Ghosts have guns?

      2. Yes, it was very out-of-character for him.

      3. Cytotoxic|10.2.14 @ 3:29PM|#
        "The worst part is that Moonbeam is not the worst CA could do."

        I'm crying....

        1. Antonio Villaraigosa, former L.A. mayor. Luckily, his career might be up in smoke.

          Gavin Newsom, former San Francisco mayor and current Lieutenant Governor. Threat level orange.

          Gil Sedillo, Ben Huesa -- well, now I'm just showing off my knowledge of Sacramento insects.

          Congressharridan Maxine Waters. Unspeakable.

  12. 12 out of the top 13 governors: republicans. The bottom 12 governors: all democrats.

    Kind of puts the lie to the notion put out by Nick Gillespie and some others that both parties are equally horrible when it comes to fiscal responsibility.

    1. Another possibility is that it's a list of relative rankings, where everyone on it is pretty shitty, but some members TEAM RED are slightly less so.

      Still another possibility is that the list was compiled by people at Cato who call themselves libertarian, but are in fact scumbag partisan cheerleaders.

      1. When forced to take sides, libertarians choose R more than D because at least R isn't openly hostile to economic liberty and fiscal sanity. So for someone who doesn't know anything about libertarians, they appear to be Rs who smoke dope.

        1. You can't be forced to take a side in something as trite as electoral politics.

        2. Free shit trumped civil liberties for the D's a long time ago.

      2. "Still another possibility is that the list was compiled by people at Cato who call themselves libertarian, but are in fact scumbag partisan cheerleaders."

        That's a possibility with a 0% chance of being true.

    2. Difference between states & feds? For the most part, Republicans at the federal level have not been fiscally responsible over the last decade.

      1. Over the last decade?

        1. Yeah, I know, but I was trying to respond to Mike M.'s specific critique of Reason. (Not that I'm a fanboy).

          1. I agree 100% that the situation at the federal level remains a shit-show, with the awful George Bush/John Boehner wing of the republicans still firmly in control.

            But some good things are definitely happening at the state level. There's a reason why Scott Walker is looking more and more like a shoo-in to get elected yet again in blue Wisconsin, the birthplace of American communism.

            1. I don't think we're in disagreement here. My point was just that most (if not all) of the Reason criticism of Republican fiscal policy has focused on policy at the federal level. So, the argument for not much difference between R & D holds at the federal level.

    3. Yet another possibility is that Team R sucks less at the moment.

      Plenty of times when Team Blue was sucking wind on a national level and Team R duly represented fascism both nationally and locally.

  13. After the Giants fucking murdered the Bucs last night, it's possible that we'll see a World Series between the Angels and the Giants. If so, I really hope someone tries to call it a bullet train series with a straight face.

    1. And if the Royals play the Angels in the ACLS, they could call it the I70 Series Part II.

      1. Was that supposed to be Royals-Orioles? The Royals play the Angels in the ALDS. The World Series still has potential for some rivalry pairings:
        I-70 Series (Royals - Cardinals)
        Freeway Series (Angels - Dodgers)
        Beltway Series (Orioles - Nationals)
        SoCal-NoCal (Angels - Giants)

  14. Can't cut income taxes lower than 0.


    Many of us here have been deafened by the laughter from IN and WI as our businesses pack up and move north or east from the Chicago area.

    1. Whaddya talkin' about? Walgreen's totally chose not to leave. It was obviously in their best interests not to.

      1. I say the poll is rigged because Hawaii is not tied for last place with California. I moved from CA to HI for job reasons and this place makes San Fran Bay area seem as conservative as conservative as 1956 Alabama. If the GOP feel outgunned in CA they are nuked here with only one GOP in the State Senate.

  16. Pretty funny Cuomo getting a B. All you need do is get elected in a state with outrageously high spending and taxes, then propose "modest" increases. Now you're a moderate!

  17. I really like Brownback on taxes, but I am afraid it is going to cost him the next election and lead to a reversal. They sold a lot of the tax stuff as utilitarian and pumped the "when you lower taxes, revenues go up" meme. It hasn't worked out that way unfortunately and revenues are down. And they are absolutely crazy for public schools in Kansas. A lot of republicans are actually endorsing the democrat in the next election. A lot of nutty shit happening in kansas politics right now.

  18. Isn't Kansas an economic basket case?

  19. Dead last goes to the guy who took a state on the brink.....from the lack of efforts by the GOP Govinator....and actually got close to fiscal responsibility!

    That's bad bad bad. It's better to cut taxes like Brownback did and have these kinds of results (quoting the WSJ here)

    "Two years ago, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback laid out an aggressive program of tax cuts to turn this slow-growing state into a Texas-like economic powerhouse?and serve as a model for Republican leaders in other states.

    So far, the results are serving as more of a warning than a beacon. Employment growth is below the national average, while Kansas faces plunging revenue, dwindling reserves and a rare debt downgrade"

    1. I agree!!! You're like super smart!

    2. You are forgetting the part where Arnold actually spent money like a liberal Democrat. Oh, and California's unemployment rate is higher than Kansas' unemployment rate.

      1. No, he's not forgetting anything! He's really smart! I'm super serial!

        1. craiginass craiginmass LOL !!!

  20. Peculiarities in the budget? I thought all states had peculiarities in their budgets. I just got paid $1884 by the State to look the other way and keep my mouth shut.

  21. I love the commenters on Reason! So funny and witty!

  22. I have a hard time getting excited by North Carolina's income tax "reform". Don't get me wrong: had it always been the case, a flat-rate tax is more "fair" than a progressive tax.

    Bat as a "reform": nobody deserves to pay any income tax (or rather, the state deserves no income tax from anybody). Moreover, those in the lowest income brackets can least afford any tax at all, much less an onerous an punitive 6%. And yet, for "reform", those in the upper brackets get a significant 2% tax break, while the lowest bracketed-folks get a trifling 0.25% reduction.

    The simple fact is, NC is still taxing the income of working people at (effectively) a 6% rate. This is indescribably evil, and using it as an excuse to essentially give kickbacks to the more well off while continuing to steal the lives and livelihoods of everyone is, frankly, reprehensible.

    (I won't speak to it giving credence to the left's generally fantastical delusions, since they are ? generally ? just that. Aren't they?)

    1. Typo city:

      "But as a reform..."

      "...onerous and punitive..."

  23. How much credit/blame should go to the governors and how much should go to the state legislators?

    Usually, the only true legislative power a governor has is a veto, along with a bully pulpit to suggest changes to the legislators.

    California Gov. Jerry Brown is a disaster, but everything I read about the CA legislature shows they are the really crazy ones.

  24. Well, at least it wasn't close. California Governor Jerry Brown has a LOCK on last place in this study. The 2nd worst governor (John Hickenlooper, D, Colorado) earned an abysmal score -- but still scored 37% higher than anchor-clanker Brown.

    Thank Goodness Governor Brown is fiscally prudent -- verified by gushing accolades from our ever-reliable MSM. Otherwise Brown might have earned a REALLY low score!

  25. By what can only be described as an extraordinary coincidence, the six best ranked governors were all Republicans, while the twelve worst governors were all Democrats. The bunching of the dozen Democrats at the bottom is deemed particularly odd, as their are only 21 Democrat governors in the entire country (including unrated West Virginia).

    But repeat after me: Correlation does not prove causation. Yup, yup, yup.

    1. Are you high? This is your attempt at humor/sarcasm? Jesus H. Christ.

      Republicans always promise to cut taxes and cut spending, the Democrats always promise to raise taxes on the rich and redistribute wealth. This scale is solely a measure of 'fiscal responsibility' as defined by the Cato institute, who's economic policy is closer to the GOP's than the Dems.

      So who are the people who you think will be enlightened by your facile observation that Republicans tend to lower taxes while giving less to social programs?

      Correlation does prove causation in this case, you absolute penis. Your joke doesn't even remotely work.

      But hey, if you want to suck your own balls and pretend you figured something out, feel free, dummy.

      1. CATO is s kochsucking tool.

        That fact that anyone can get paid for doing that crap shows how far civilization has come. No one has to do real work anymore! Just give all the money to the Kochs and their friends and then they buy and build "institutions" to pay the peons to write shit.

        What a world.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.