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Entries in States (3)

Wednesday
Jun082011

New Jersey, New York Ranked Worst for 'Individual Freedoms'

Medioimages/Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Live free or die? New Hampshire may be on to something, according to researchers at George Mason University's Mercatus Center who used a variety of statistics to rank the 50 states for their just-published report on which are the freest -- and least free -- from taxes and government regulation.

Their horserace has ranked New York as the "least free state in the Union" followed by neighboring New Jersey. New Hampshire and South Dakota were in a virtual tie for most "free" state.

The professors who authored the study believe that this freedom as they define it makes a lot of difference to the happiness and well-being of the governed.

Many people "don't want to have their lives dictated by people in their state capital," says William Ruger, political science professor at Texas State University-San Marcos, who co-authored the report with Jason Sorens, political science professor at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York.

"As academics, we were first interested in the scientific question of how states differ, why, and with what implications," said Ruger. "It was natural to then compare them in terms of their respect for individual freedom given how important this is to both of us."

Ruger, who is in the reserve component of the Navy, served in Afghanistan from 2008 to 2009. He said his project was not related to his time in Afghanistan, though "those who love freedom ought to take it upon themselves to defend and uphold our individual rights."

"Sometimes we do so with the pen, sometimes with the sword," he said.

New York was ranked dead last in part because it has the highest taxes in the country, including those on property, selective sales, individual income, and corporate-income, according to the report. They cited New York's spending on "other and unallocable" expenses, including public welfare, hospitals, electric power, transit, and employee retirement, as another reason for its ranking.

The report created four other lists ranking freedom based on fiscal policy, regulatory policy, economic freedom and personal freedom.

Maryland was ranked last based on personal freedom, though it was #43 in overall freedom. The report cited Maryland's gun laws, which are the second-strictest in the country, as well as "fairly harsh" marijuana laws, extensive auto regulations, harsh gambling laws, "burdensome" homeschooling laws, high drug arrest rates and lack of status for same-sex partnerships.

Beyond making policy recommendations for each state, such as proposing that Maryland legalize same-sex civil unions and strengthen medical-marijuana law while decriminalizing low-level possession, Ruger said there were two critical policy implications from the study.

First, freer states are attracting citizens from other states while less-free states are losing citizens -- and their tax dollars.

"This is true for both economic freedom and personal freedom," Ruger said. "People are voting with their feet and moving to open, tolerant, and economically free states and away from nanny-states."

Second, Ruger said that economic freedom is associated with income growth. The study results showed that a 0.25 unit increase in economic freedom increases the average annual growth rate in personal income by about 0.25 percentage points.

Statistically speaking, South Dakota should have a growing population and increasing incomes because the state ranked first in economic freedom and second in overall freedom. Census Bureau data shows more people at least moved to South Dakota from other states (29,631) than left for another state (25,950) in 2009.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Dec072010

Could Abolishing the Death Penalty Help States Save Money?

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In 2003, Seattle resident Robert Kerr was abducted from his apartment and found dead 30 miles from his home, with his bank account emptied and without clothes or identification. At the end of 2010, the state of Washington has yet to arrest or convict anyone for his death.

While Kerr's killers have never been found, the state will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in the coming year on the death penalty for people already behind bars -- a situation that has reformers, and Kerr's family, clamoring for change.

Kerr's case is one of thousands of unsolved murders, and it's the reason his sister, Judy Kerr, supports her state, California, in abolishing the death penalty and reallocating the millions of dollars it spends on death row inmates each year to solving cold cases.

With so many states facing deficits, legislation on the death penalty has started to address the cost of the policy, while justification for it has traditionally focused on whether it's right or wrong.

California has a $25-billion deficit and almost 700 inmates on death row. According to a 2008 report issued by the California Commission for the Fair Administration of Justice, maintaining the criminal justice system costs $137 million per year, but the cost would drop to $11.5 million if it weren't for the death penalty. A 2010 study from the Northern California chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union found that California would be forced to spend $1 billion on the death penalty in the next five years if the state does not replace capital punishment with permanent imprisonment.

California is not the only state where cost has become an argument for abolishing the death penalty.

Last week, a commission report recommended to the New Hampshire legislature that the state not expand its death penalty, citing its higher costs as one of the reasons, and the same week a bill to abolish the death penalty in Illinois passed in the state's House Judiciary Committee.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Dec052010

State Debt Worse than Thought?

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Hidden state debts could cause an unexpected crisis as the economy continues to recover, The New York Times reported Sunday. California, Illinois, New Jersey, and New York, are some of the states accused in the article of borrowing and using financial tricks to pay their debts, adding new debts that are often off the books.

States presently have $2.8 trillion dollars worth of debt, but that number could be drastically worse with extraneous debts. Adding to fears of a worsening debt crisis, state credit ratings have gone up because investors believe the federal government backs up states financially. The concern now is how long these problems can last.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio







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