Florida tops in fiscal health

Florida is No. 1 among all 50 states when it comes to its fiscal health, according to an academic study released today.

Measuring both short-term and long-term solvency, which includes issues such as state revenue, budget reserves, bond debt and pension liabilities, the Mercatus Center — a free-market think tank at George Mason University — tapped Florida as the top state in its annual survey of the fiscal health of the states.

“Keeping debt levels low, saving cash to pay bills and maintaining solvent budgets reflect a culture of fiscal discipline,” the report said. “The first-place position of Florida in particular demonstrates that this is possible even with a relatively larger population and higher pension costs that arise from an aging population.”

Eileen Norcross and Olivia Gonzalez, the researchers who wrote the report, said their evaluation showed Florida’s budget, based on 2015 data, had at least 8.19 times the cash needed to cover short-term obligations and revenue exceeded expenses by 7 percent.

Florida had $24.6 billion in long-term debt, but it amounted to $1,211 in per-capita debt compared to a national average of $1,804.

Florida’s pension fund had the capacity to pay 86 percent of its long-term obligations, well above the national average of 74 percent, the report showed.

At the bottom of the fiscal health evaluation were No. 49 Illinois, which just passed its first budget in the last three years, and No. 50 New Jersey, where the governor drew criticism for budget-related beach closings during the 4th of July weekend (during which he was snapped on the beach).

“Each of the bottom five states exhibits serious signs of fiscal distress,” the report said. “Their large liabilities and low cash on hand raise serious concerns about their ability to pay bills.”

Posted by Lloyd Dunkelberger