Fiscal Policy Report Card on America’s Governors: 2002

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Against the backdrop of the worst state budgetcrunch in years, this report presents the findingsof Cato Institute’s sixth biennial fiscal policyreport card on the nation’s governors. Thereport card’s grading is based on 17 objectivemeasures of each governor’s fiscal performance.Governors who have cut taxes and spending themost receive the highest grades. Those who haveincreased spending and taxes the most receivethe lowest grades.

This year, two governors receive the highestgrade of A: Bill Owens of Colorado and Jeb Bushof Florida. Four governors receive the lowestgrade of F: Gray Davis of California, DonSundquist of Tennessee, Bob Taft of Ohio, andJohn Kitzhaber of Oregon.

The governors of some of America’s mostpopulous states and their grades are GeorgePataki of New York, B; George Ryan of Illinois,D; and John Engler of Michigan, B.

State governments faced a combined budgetgap of more than $40 billion in 2002, largely as aresult of an overspending binge in the 1990s.Most governors will confront more tough budgetchoices in 2003. We hope that governors donot make the mistake of raising taxes to try tobalance budgets, as many did in the economicslowdown of the early 1990s. Instead, by reducingspending and cutting tax rates, governorscan return their states to fiscal and economichealth. If they do, we will have many high gradesto reward on the next Cato fiscal report card.

Stephen Moore and Stephen Slivinski

Stephen Moore is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. Stephen Slivinski, a former fiscal policy analyst at the Cato Institute, is director of tax and budget studies at the Goldwater Institute.