Report: Florida ranks 16th in state finances, earns a ‘C’ grade overall

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“Most voters would be alarmed to learn how much money their state needs in order to cover promised expenses.”

A new report shows Florida ranks 16th in the country in terms of the state government’s finances.

But while Florida is well within the top half of states overall, its debts still outweigh its assets.

That’s according to numbers from the new Financial State of the States (FSOS) report, courtesy of a group called Truth in Accounting (TIA). The report, released Tuesday, looked at each state’s financial situation during the 2018 fiscal year.

According to TIA’s numbers, “Florida’s bills exceed its assets to the tune of $12.1 billion — or $1,800 for each FL taxpayer.” That earns Florida a “C” grade in terms of managing its finances, per the group’s grading metric.

Florida has now earned a “C” for each of the past three years.

“The C grade is a warning sign to lawmakers that public finances are trending in the wrong direction,” said Sheila Weinberg, founder and CEO of TIA.

“Most voters would be alarmed to learn how much money their state needs in order to cover promised expenses.”

Florida’s 2017 data also showed a “taxpayer burden” of $1,800 each. That was good enough for 11th in the country that year in terms of per capita debt.

In 2016, the state ranked 12th, owing approximately $1,600 per taxpayer.

TIA’s 2018 numbers showed just 10 states with a “taxpayer surplus,” meaning the state’s assets exceeded its debts. Alaska was far ahead, as it has been for the past several years, with a surplus averaging out to $74,200 per taxpayer.

In second was North Dakota, with a $30,700 surplus per taxpayer, following by Wyoming at $20,800. Those three states were the only states to earn an “A” as part of the FSOS report.

All other “surplus states” showed a surplus of between $700 and $5,300 per taxpayer. Those states all earned a “B.”

The average state’s taxpayer burden sat at $8,450., which explains why Florida can place in the top half of the country despite owing more than it has on hand, according to TIA’s numbers.

TIA describes its goal as providing “timely, contextual government accounting information to citizens, policymakers, media and others.” The organization itself is nonpartisan, though it has partnered with conservative organizations in its work such as the American Legislative Exchange Council and The Heartland Institute.

When analyzing a state’s finances, TIA looks at debts such as bonds, unfunded pension benefits, and unfunded retiree health care benefits, among other items.

Florida had more than $73 billion in debts during the 2018 fiscal year and just under $61 billion in assets. The state has not shown a surplus in TIA’s data going back to 2009.

The FSOS report grants an “A” grade to any state with a surplus above $10,000 per taxpayer. Any excess below that amount earns a B.

States with a deficit between $0 and $4,900, like Florida, earned a “C.” Just over a quarter of states (13) fell into that category. A whopping 36 percent of states (18 states) earned a “D” for having a deficit between $5,000 and $20,000 per taxpayer.

Another nine states, or 18 percent, received an “F” for having a deficit exceeding $20,000 per taxpayer. The worst offenders were Connecticut ($51,800 deficit per taxpayer), Illinois ($52,600) and New Jersey ($65,100).

TIA has also put out data on major cities. Its 2017 data showed Jacksonville, Orlando and Miami with a “D” grade for the handling of their respective finances. Tampa, however, earned a “B.”

Ryan Nicol

Ryan Nicol covers news out of South Florida for Florida Politics. Ryan is a native Floridian who attended undergrad at Nova Southeastern University before moving on to law school at Florida State. After graduating with a law degree he moved into the news industry, working in TV News as a writer and producer, along with some freelance writing work. If you'd like to contact him, send an email to [email protected]

One comment

  • Rosanne Dunkelberger

    September 24, 2019 at 5:00 pm

    Guess they’re not grading on the curve.

Comments are closed.


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