The Best- and Worst-Run States in America: A Survey of All 50

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

In the United States, the federal government is the ultimate legislative authority — wielding the power to regulate commerce, declare war, as well as establish and maintain a currency. Beyond that, however, the U.S. Constitution grants states considerable leverage in the management of their own internal affairs.

Social and economic outcomes in a given state are often the product of a range of historic circumstances, including — but not limited to — the presence of major companies or universities, natural resources, and prevailing political ideology. While some of these conditions are outside the government’s control, states have the power to plan and react to economic and social conditions through carefully crafted fiscal policies and budgetary priorities.

There is no one-size-fits-all formula for effective state governance, and in this way, no two states are exactly alike. Still, some states are managed far more proficiently than others.

For the eighth year in a row, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed economic indicators, budget allocations, and balance sheets, in addition to a range of social measures to rank how well each state is run. These are the best and worst run states in the country.

Utah
> 2016 Unemployment: 3.4% (8th lowest)
> Pension funded ratio: 85.7% (12th highest)
> Credit rating and outlook: Aaa/Stable
> Poverty: 10.2% (7th lowest)

Utah’s population has increased by about one-third since 2000. As Utah’s population expanded, the state has been able to achieve smart, sustainable growth. Water consumption fell by approximately 25%, largely due to increases in housing density that resulted in smaller lot sizes. Air pollution has fallen by roughly 50%, partially as the result of an extensive clean air campaign. Also, the number of vehicle miles traveled per person has remained largely unchanged due to increases in density and public transit infrastructure.

Due in part to a growing GDP, the state’s economy has easily accommodated the population influx. Utah’s economy expanded by 3.7% in 2016, nearly the fastest GDP growth among states and more than double U.S. economic growth the same year. As of 2016, just 3.4% of Utah’s workforce were unemployed, and only 10.2% of residents lived in poverty, far less than the 4.9% national unemployment and 14.0% poverty rates.

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