HELENA – Montana ranks ninth best among the 50 states for its overall fiscal condition in the 2012 budget year, a new study published for a George Mason University center concluded.

That overall ranking was determined after using four “solvency indices” in the study by Sarah Arnett. It was published by the university’s Mercatus Center, a market-oriented think tank.

Here are the rankings by solvency indices for fiscal 2012, along with Montana’s ranking for each:

• Cash solvency, a liquidity measurement that takes into account the cash that a state can easily access to pay its bills in the near term. Montana ranked fifth best.

• Budget solvency, which measures a state’s ability to come up with enough revenue to cover its expenses over a fiscal year. Montana ranked eighth.

• Long-run solvency, which is a measurement of a state’s ability to use incoming revenue to cover all its expenditures, including guaranteed pension benefits and infrastructure maintenance. Montana ranked ninth.

• Service-level solvency, which reflects whether state governments have sufficient resources to provide their residents with an adequate level of services. Montana ranked 24th.

The study found the five states with the highest ranked overall fiscal conditions to be Alaska, which was first, followed by South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska and Wyoming.

The five states with the lowest ranked fiscal conditions are California at 46th, followed by Massachusetts, Illinois, Connecticut and New Jersey.

The 2012 fiscal year ended June 30, 2012, when Gov. Brian Schweitzer was midway through his final year as governor and six months before Gov. Steve Bullock took office. Both are Democrats.

Even so, the Bullock administration was pleased by the study.

“It’s good news,” Bullock spokesman Kevin O’Brien said Wednesday. If you used fiscal year 2013, we’d be in a better position. What is sort of stunning is that we were in that good of position without taking into account the stuff taken in 2013 to ensure our fiscal security and strength in our economy.”

O’Brien was referring to Bullock’s proposals, approved by the 2013 Legislature, to address long-term state obligations such as public pensions. The state did that without raising taxes, unlike other states, he said.

He also cited another new law that cuts property taxes for all businesses, and one that made historic state investments in education.

“At 30,000 feet, the study confirms what Montanans already know – that solid fiscal management has made Montana a great place for working families and small business,” O’Brien said.

Of the 10 states that ranked highest for overall fiscal conditions by the center, Montana was the only one headed by a Democratic governor, the Bullock administration official said.

In a separate rating in October, the Tax Foundation ranked Montana as having the seventh best tax climate for businesses in the 50 states in its 2014 ratings.

Chuck Johnson is chief of the Lee Newspapers State Bureau in Helena. He can be reached by email at: chuck.johnson@lee.net or by phone at (406) 447-4066 or (800) 525-4920.

(5) comments


Expanding medicaid in Montana would ultimately reduce the state's long-run solvency. Good decision by the legislature.

idiot state
idiot state

All the states in the region, beginning with South Dakota, which was rated #2, and including North Dakota and Wyoming and Nebraska, ranked above Montana. The main thing that Montana has going for it is its coal industry. Without that, it'd be in trouble.


Why did not the Missoulian show us the ranking of the other states above Montana?

Alan H Johnson
Alan H Johnson

They have a link to the entire report. You can read it for yourself.

Alan H Johnson
Alan H Johnson

What is obvious here is that small-population states tend to have less fiscal problems, thus the northern Rockies and Northern Plains states rate very well, along with Alaska. The states at the bottom are large-population states, including the largest, California. This is not a rating of the respective economies of the states, but rather a rating for if the state government books are in good order, that there's money in the bank to pay the bills, etc.

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