Stateline Story

Cato Ranks Governors on Taxing, Spending

The Cato Institute, in a report released March 1, ranked 42 governors and gave its highest marks to California's Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) for his first year in office because he cut taxes by more than $2 billion and plugged a $15 billion deficit by cutting spending and borrowing money instead of raising taxes.

The Washington, D.C., group, which promotes free markets and limited government, gave "A" grades to Schwarzenegger and fellow Republican Gov. Bill Owens of Colorado, along with former Govs. Judy Martz of Montana and Craig Benson of New Hampshire, both Republicans. Taft and Rendell received "F" grades, along with former Democratic Govs. James McGreevey of New Jersey and Bob Holden of Missouri.

The biennial report, which conservatives look to at election time as a benchmark of governors' fiscal policies, considered 15 factors in spending, revenue and tax-rate categories, such as per capita spending, per capita tax revenue, and the personal income tax rate. It graded 42 governors excluding two for technical reasons and six who took office too recently using information from the U.S. Census Bureau and the National Association of State Budget Officers current through Nov. 1, 2004.

The highest-scoring Democrat was New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who received a "B." The report praised him for cutting the state's top personal income tax rate from 8.2 percent to 5 percent over five years, though it added that one of his few black marks was supporting and signing a cigarette tax increase of 70 cents a pack.