The 2012 ranking of the states by per-capita government spending measures the fiscal efficiency of states. Site location consultants, corporate site selection executives, political candidates, state and local economic development departments, trade groups, real estate developers and legislative researchers can use the ranking to determine the most efficient, thrifty and fiscally responsible state operations.
Data and statistics from six sources were used to compile the ranking. The sources include: the Tax Foundation, the Kaiser Family Foundation's Statehealthfacts.org site, the Council of State Governments' latest "Book of the States," the National Conference of State Legislatures, the Business Council of New York State and the Thinkingarizona.com public policy research site.
A variety of other spending statistics sources were consulted, including the U.S. Census Bureau, National Association of State Budget Officials, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and the National Governors Association. The most recent data was given a higher weighting in the final calculations. Web links enable comparing the 2012 data with rankings from 2009.
In addition, experts from a variety of fields offer their views on the ranking in the comprehensive analysis. State government officials from top-finishing states discuss their respective states' strong showings.
Anyone interested in the future of their community should look at their area's per-capita spend data. In some ways, the data is a roadmap of a region's future, says Bill King, who is president and CEO at the Nacogdoches, Texas-based Nacogdoches Economic Development Corporation, a regional development organization.
"I like to look at per-capita government spending from a business or taxpayer point of view because it is a good reflection of how much government is costing you and/or your business. I also believe that the trend lines over time (increasing, decreasing or staying the same) are a leading indicator of what is likely to happen with your taxes in the future. That's important because we live in a highly mobile society where costs can be changed simply by relocating to another political jurisdiction," says King.