Truth in Accounting (TIA), a Chicago-based think tank that analyzes government financial reporting, found that Wyoming has the third best taxpayer surplus out of all 50 states. Taxpayer surplus is a calculation of the state’s available assets divided by the number of taxpayers. Wyoming is one of only nine states with a taxpayer surplus; the rest have a taxpayer burden. These findings are released today in TIA’s annual Financial State of the States report.
Wyoming’s ranking classifies it as a top Sunshine State – one of the five states with the highest taxpayer surpluses. The top five Sunshine States are:
Despite the healthy status of its finances, Wyoming still has room to improve its accounting and reporting. For example, TIA found $555 million dollars in unfunded retirees’ health care benefits are not included on the state’s balance sheet. These unfunded benefits are promises the state has made to public servants, police officers and firefighters, but because the state uses accounting gimmicks, they don’t report the accurate figures.
“Wyoming is lucky to essentially have $4.3 billion in available assets after their bills are deducted,” says Sheila Weinberg, Founder and CEO of TIA. “This is the time for Gov. Mead and the legislature to let people know that the state Retiree Health Insurance Plan currently has a $690 million funding gap, and the Wyoming Retirement System needs $570 million.”
Wyoming is one of nine bright spots in TIA’s analysis of all 50 states, the vast majority of which are in debt to some degree. The average taxpayer burden across all the states is $9,900. That’s how much taxpayers would have to pay their state to be debt free. In contrast to Wyoming’s $20,500 surplus, the states at the bottom of the ranking carry staggering taxpayer burdens. Illinois for example has a $50,400 burden, and in New Jersey the figure is $67,200.
Across all 50 states, TIA calculated a total of $1.5 trillion of unfunded debt, a huge financial burden for current and future taxpayers. The taxpayer burden is more than just a number – it can also be linked to a lower quality of life, poor highway systems, and the slow home price recovery.
The full 50-state ranking can be found online here.
The Financial State of the States report is an in depth study of the 50 states’ financial conditions for the most recent Fiscal Year. Data for this report was derived from states’ 2016 financial reports and related retirement plans’ actuarial reports.
Founded in 2002, Truth in Accounting is dedicated to educating and empowering citizens with understandable, reliable, and transparent government financial information. Founder and CEO Sheila Weinberg is a Certified Public Accountant with more than 30 years of experience in the field.