Low taxes and school choice help inform ALEC’s ranking of best and worst governors | national
(The Center Square) – Nine Republicans and one Democrat are on the American Legislative Exchange Council’s list of the top 10 governors of 2021 in a new report on economic freedom.
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — all Republicans — were the nation’s top three governors, according to the joint report by the American Legislative Exchange Council and economist Arthur Laffer & Associates.
The “2021 Laffer-ALEC Report on Economic Freedom: Ranking America’s 50 Governors” ranked each governor based on their current economic performance and fiscal and executive policies during their tenure. Colorado Governor Jared Polis, a Democrat, and Idaho Governor Brad Little, a Republican, round out the top five. Others who made the top ten were Tennessee Governor Bill Lee (6), New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu (7), Arizona Governor Doug Ducey (8), Georgia Brian Kemp (9) and Texas Governor Greg Abbott (10).
The bottom 10 were all Democrats: Michigan Gretchen Whitmer (41), Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont (42), Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (43), Hawaii Gov. David Ige (44), New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (45 ), former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (46), Illinois Governor JB Pritzker (47), California Governor Gavin Newsom (48), Rhode Island Governor Daniel McKee (49 ) and finally New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham (50).
The report ranked governors according to three broad categories: executive policies, economic performance and fiscal policy. Executive policies include union control, academic freedom, and welfare dependency. Economic performance included a range of measures, including interstate migration, quality of education, gross state product growth, and unemployment rate. Fiscal policy included debt, corporate income tax, personal income tax, government spending per capita, and federal unemployment benefits. The metrics were different from those in the group’s 2020 report, which focused more on COVID-19 lockdown policies, said Jonathan Williams, ALEC’s chief economist and report contributor. The American Legislative Exchange Council is a nonpartisan organization of state legislators focused on limited government, free markets, and federalism.
The top 10 governors shared some common traits: lower taxes, policies encouraging domestic energy production, lower unemployment rates and a tendency to be among those who scrapped enhanced federal unemployment benefits as soon as possible, said Williams.
Polis even called for eliminating Colorado’s state income tax.
“I think it’s a pretty remarkable trait these days, given where the national progressive wing has taken his side, that he would stand up for taxpayers and not just call for tax cuts, but would call for the complete elimination of the state income tax,” Williams said. “When you compare that with, in some cases, Republicans fighting other Republicans over how much they should cut taxes or if they should eliminate their state’s income tax, as Mississippi is looking at this session, and things like that, it’s very remarkable that a Democrat like Jared Polis stands out.”
Williams said Polis was also helped by some of Colorado’s existing policies, including its Taxpayer Bill of Rightsa 1992 amendment to the state constitution that limits the amount of revenue the state can retain and spend.
The top 10 is a competitive group, Williams said.
“There is a large group of governors in this top 10 and these states are really some of the most powerful states in the country,” he said. “So sometimes the degree of difference between them can be very slight, but that’s based on equal weighting of the variables.”
The bottom 10 include governors from five of the nation’s 10 largest states, including California, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Michigan. The number of people living in California, New York and Illinois is declining.
“There’s a lot of competition for the bottom,” Williams said. “They seek to empower government to have a more orderly and controlled top-down economic system where it empowers politicians and not markets, not business owners and individuals and of course what we see are revealed preferences, that’s what we call that in economics, people vote with their feet every year away from states like New York, California and Illinois.”