Referendum Climate: Fiscal Policy Report on the Nation’s Governors

Chris Edwards:

evenue poured into state governments as the U.S. economy expanded between 2003 and 2007, prompting the nation’s governors to expand state budgets and offer the occasional tax cut. But now that the economy has slowed and revenue growth is down, governors are taking various actions to close rising budget deficits.
This ninth biennial fiscal report card examines the tax and spending decisions made by the governors since 2003. It uses statistical data to grade the governors on their taxing and spending records – governors who have cut taxes and spending the most receive the highest grades, while those who have increased taxes and spending the most receive the lowest grades.
Three governors were awarded an “A” in this report card – Charlie Crist of Florida, Mark Sanford of South Carolina, and Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Eight governors were awarded an “F” – Martin O’Malley of Maryland, Ted Kulongoski of Oregon, Rod Blagojevich of Illinois, Chet Culver of Iowa, Jon Corzine of New Jersey, Bob Riley of Alabama, Jodi Rell of Connecticut, and C. L. “Butch” Otter of Idaho.

Wisconsin’s Governor Doyle received a “D”:

When running for governor, James Doyle pledged not to raise taxes. He mostly kept that promise his first few years, and even provided a smattering of tax cuts. His fiscal policies then took a turn for the worse. In 2007 he proposed an array of large tax increases totaling about $900 million, including higher cigarette taxes, hospital taxes, oil company taxes, and increased real estate transfer taxes. Doyle has also refused to go along with the legislature in providing property tax relief, and he is fond of using increased debt to finance spending. But Doyle’s spending record is better than his tax record, and this year he is insisting on budget restraint to eliminate a deficit.

Much more on Madison’s November, 2008 referendum here.