Even though Republicans did not fare as well as hoped in Senate and House races, conservative governors coasted to reelection.
The 2021 Laffer-ALEC Report on Economic Freedom graded America’s 50 state governors.
Govs. Kristi Noem (R-SD), Ron DeSantis (R-FL), Jared Polis (D-CO), Brad Little (R-ID), Bill Lee (R-TN), Chris Sununu (R-NH), Brian Kemp (R-GA) and Greg Abbott (R-TX) were all ranked in the top 10 of conservative governors in a Laffer-ALEC analysis last year. They were each given the top grade of five starts by the report’s authors.
Utah’s governor, Spencer Cox, was ranked second in the analysis, but he is not scheduled to run for reelection until 2024.
The other governor given a five-star rating by the report’s authors is Arizona’s Doug Ducey. Gov. Ducey is not eligible to run for reelection due to Arizona’s term limits for its governor.
Of the 12 five-star governors announced by the analysis, all that ran for reelection in the midterm cruised to another term, even the Democrat.
The analysis was conducted by well-known conservatives such as ALEC’s Dr. Arthur B. Laffer and The Heritage Foundation’s Stephen Moore. The group of analysts ranked governors on their economic, fiscal and executive policies. Conservative policy positions earned higher marks.
Governors received grades weighted for many factors that took into consideration their tenure, existing policies and changes made by them.
There were 15 key areas that contributed to the rankings under three key performance indicators, according to the report. The KPIs are Executive Policies, Economic Performance and Fiscal Policy.
Executive policies consisted of union control, education freedom and welfare dependency.
Change in union membership over a governor’s term, change in ratio of government employment relative to population and right-to-work policies combined to create union control grades.
Education freedom measured the availability of school choice options for parents, including in-person schooling during the fall of 2021, free from state mandates.
Welfare dependency considered the combined spending for Medicaid and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. Transfer payments for minors were excluded from the analysis, the authors noted.
The second KPI, Economic Performance, measures the economic performance of the state under each
governor’s leadership and is based on empirical data. It consists of interstate migration, education quality, gross state product growth and the unemployment rate.
Interstate migration is a calculation of net in-migration with several adjustments based on a complex formula.
Education quality looks at the change in 4th grade reading NAEP scores as published by the U.S. Department of Education. It is measured from the immediate data point before each term to 2019 scores — the latest available.
Average compound quarterly Gross State Product growth rates are measured in each state from the first quarter prior to each governor’s term to the present.
The unemployment rate is self-explanatory.
The third KPI, Fiscal Policy, considers debt, personal and corporate income taxes, per capita spending and federal unemployment benefits.
The analysts combined standard reported debt levels from the Census Bureau’s State and Local Finances report and each state’s total pension unfunded liability.
A composite ranking is created based upon current corporate tax rates, proposed corporate tax rates and changes to corporate tax rates throughout each governor’s time in office. A ranking for personal taxes uses a similar formula.
Per capita spending looks at all funds, including federal funding via grants and subsidies, which are included within total spending. That amount is then adjusted for population size and ranked ordinally.
Federal unemployment benefits is calculated as a share of median family income, the authors said. Maximum benefits are calculated and annualized in each state for a family of two unemployed adults and two dependents.
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