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Fiscal Policy Report Card on America's Governors: 2006, Cato Policy Analysis No. 581

Fiscal Policy Report Card on America's Governors: 2006, Cato Policy Analysis No. 581

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Published by Cato Institute
Executive Summary

This report presents the findings of the Cato
Institute's eighth biennial fiscal policy report
card on the nation's governors. The report card's
grading is based on 23 objective measures of fiscal
performance. Governors who have cut taxes
and spending the most receive the highest
grades. Those who have increased spending and
taxes the most receive the lowest grades.

Only one governor receives an A this year
Executive Summary

This report presents the findings of the Cato
Institute's eighth biennial fiscal policy report
card on the nation's governors. The report card's
grading is based on 23 objective measures of fiscal
performance. Governors who have cut taxes
and spending the most receive the highest
grades. Those who have increased spending and
taxes the most receive the lowest grades.

Only one governor receives an A this year

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Published by: Cato Institute on Mar 27, 2009
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This report presents the findings of the CatoInstitute’s eighth biennial fiscal policy reportcard on the nation’s governors. The report card’sgrading is based on 23 objective measures of fis-cal performance. Governors who have cut taxesand spending the most receive the highestgrades. Those who have increased spending andtaxes the most receive the lowest grades.Only one governor receives an A this year—Republican Matt Blunt of Missouri. The next twohighest-scoring Republicans are Rick Perry of Texas and Mark Sanford of South Carolina. Thehighest-scoring Democratic governors are JohnLynch of New Hampshire and Phil Bredesen of Tennessee.Nine governors receive Fs. In alphabeticalorder, they are Kathleen Blanco of Louisiana,Michael Easley of North Carolina, Kenny Guinnof Nevada, Christine Gregoire of Washington,Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, Ruth Ann Minner of Delaware, Janet Napolitano of Arizona, Bob Riley of Alabama, and Brian Schweitzer of Montana.Governors who received praise in previous edi-tions of the report card but have lower grades thisyear include Arnold Schwarzenegger of California (current grade, D); Jeb Bush of Florida (currentgrade, C); Bill Owens of Colorado (current grade,D); George Pataki of New York (current grade, D);and Bill Richardson of New Mexico (currentgrade, C).
 Fiscal Policy Report Card on America’s Governors: 2006
by Stephen Slivinski
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________
Stephen Slivinski is director of budget studies at the Cato Institute and author of 
Buck Wild: How RepublicansBroke the Bank and Became the Party of Big Government
(Nelson Current, 2006).
Executive Summary 
No. 581October 24, 2006
 
Introduction
The fiscal news has finally turned goodfor most state policymakers. The improvingnational economic condition has reversedthe fiscal fortunes of most states. Gone arethe reports of massive budget deficits thatequaled $265 billion in total between 2001and 2005. This year at least 42 states will endthe fiscal year with a budget surplus. In total,states are estimated to be in the black by $28.9 billion.
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But is this good news for taxpayers? Itdepends, of course, on what each governorand state legislature plan to do with themoney. Some plan to spend most or all of thewindfall, while others are planning to give itback to those who produced it: the taxpayersof their state.Such is the context for the Cato Institute’seighth biennial fiscal policy report card on thenation’s governors. The study is a comparativeanalysis of the budget and tax records of 46governors. (Three governors—James Risch of Idaho, Jon Corzine of New Jersey, and TimKaine of Virginia—were excluded because they assumed office too recently for their records tobe fully assessed. The governor of Alaska wasexcluded for technical reasons.)
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The reportcard provides an index of fiscal restraint foreach governor. Governors who cut taxes andspending the most receive the highest grades.Those who raised taxes and spending the mostreceive the lowest grades.The grading mechanism is based on 23objective measures of fiscal performance. Thesources of the tax and spending data in thestudy are the U.S. Bureau of the Census, theNational Association of State Budget Officers,the National Conference of State Legislatures,and the budget offices of each governor andlegislature.
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 Appendix A to this report discusses somecaveats to keep in mind while reading thisreport card. Appendix B provides a detaileddiscussion of the report card’s methodology and the 23 policy variables that it examines. Appendix C contains the tables that outlinethe grade each governor receives in eachbroad fiscal policy category—spending, rev-enue, and tax rates. Appendix D provides a summary of the record of each governor inthis year’s report.
Main Results
Tables 1 presents the grades for each gov-ernor. Governors have been graded on theirperformance during their current term inoffice. Past Cato report cards awarded gradesto governors on the basis of their cumulativerecord in office—from their inauguration tothe present day. This year, the methodology has been changed to award grades to gover-nors on a term-by-term basis. That will assistreaders in tracking how the quality of a gov-ernor’s fiscal stewardship rises or declinesover time.Only when governors leave office will they receive a cumulative overall grade—an aver-age of all their term grades—to reflect theirperformance during their entire governor-ships. The overall grades for each of the eightincumbent governors who are leaving officein 2007 are given in Table 2. Also bear in mind that some governorsgraded this year were inaugurated in January 2005 or after. Therefore, they have been award-ed “midterm” grades. Those governors havebeen noted with an asterisk in Table 1.This year only one governor receives a grade of A: Matt Blunt of Missouri. Nine gov-ernors receive Fs. In alphabetical order, they are Kathleen Blanco of Louisiana, MichaelEasley of North Carolina, Kenny Guinn of Nevada, Christine Gregoire of Washington,Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, Ruth AnnMinner of Delaware, Janet Napolitano of  Arizona, Bob Riley of Alabama, and BrianSchweitzer of Montana.
The High-ScoringGovernors
The governor with the best fiscal record isMatt Blunt of Missouri, who is currently in
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Governors whocut taxes andspending themost receive thehighest grades.Those who raisedtaxes andspending themost receive thelowest grades.
 
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Table 1Overall Current-Term Grades
StateGovernorScoreGradeMissouriMatt Blunt (R)*63A
TexasRick Perry (R)61BSouth CarolinaMark Sanford (R)60BTennesseePhil Bredesen (D)60BSouth DakotaMike Rounds (R)59BUtahJohn Huntsman (R)*59BNew HampshireJohn Lynch (D)58BGeorgiaSonny Perdue (R)56CNew MexicoBill Richardson (D)56COklahomaBrad Henry (D)56CIowaTom Vilsack (D)56CMassachusettsMitt Romney (R)55CMinnesotaTim Pawlenty (R)55CNebraskaDave Heineman (R)55CPennsylvaniaEdward Rendell (D)55CMississippiHaley Barbour (R)*54CRhode IslandDon Carcieri (R)54CFloridaJeb Bush (R)54CNorth DakotaJohn Hoeven (R)54COhioBob Taft (R)53CKentuckyErnie Fletcher (R)53CMarylandRobert Ehrlich (R)53CVermontJames Douglas (R)53CMichiganJennifer Granholm (D)53CNew YorkGeorge Pataki (R)51DWest VirginiaJoe Manchin (D)*51DKansasKathleen Sebelius (D)51DIllinoisRod Blagojevich (D)51DMaineJohn Baldacci (D)51DColoradoBill Owens (R)50DOregonTed Kulongoski (D)50DIndianaMitch Daniels (R)*50DConnecticutJodi Rell (R)50DHawaiiLinda Lingle (R)50DCaliforniaArnold Schwarzenegger (R)49DWisconsinJim Doyle (D)49DWyomingDave Freudenthal (D)49DMontanaBrian Schweitzer (D)*47FAlabamaBob Riley (R)47FWashingtonChristine Gregoire (D)*47FArkansasMike Huckabee (R)46FNevadaKenny Guinn (R)46FDelawareRuth Ann Minner (D)*44FNorth CarolinaMichael Easley (D)*44FArizonaJanet Napolitano (D)43FLouisianaKathleen Blanco (D)*43F*Governor who receives a midterm grade only.

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