Policy Analysis No. 203

A Fiscal Policy Report Card on America Governors: 1994

By Stephen Moore and Dean Stansel
January 28, 1994

Executive Summary

This study presents an objective, comparative analysis of the spending and taxing policies of 47 of America’s governors. In effect, it is a report card on their fiscal performance.

For each of the governors who were elected before 1991, we constructed a 14-variable index of fiscal performance. The variables used include measurements of the change in state expenditures, the change in state tax rates, and the change in the tax burden in each state under each current governor. For the 13 governors who took office after July 1991, we explored similar but fewer fiscal policy variables based on budget and tax changes enacted through fiscal 1994.

Three governors receive A’s on our fiscal policy report card: L. Douglas Wilder of Virginia, Stephen Merrill of New Hampshire, and Kirk Fordice of Mississippi. Five governors receive F’s: Lowell Weicker of Connecticut, James Florio of New Jersey, John Waihee of Hawaii, James Hunt of North Carolina, and Thomas Carper of Delaware. Other prominent governors and their grades, from best to worst, are William Weld of Massachusetts, B; Tommy Thompson of Wisconsin, B; John Engler of Michigan, B; Lawton Chiles of Florida, B; Mario Cuomo of New York, C; Jim Edgar of Illinois, C; Ann Richards of Texas, D; and Pete Wilson of California, D.

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Stephen Moore is director of fiscal policy studies and Dean Stansel is a research assistant at the Cato Institute.