Best States for Income

The U.S.Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) released its rankings of personal income by state for 2009.

Personal income throughout the U.S. was down 1.7% in 2009.  44 states had declining incomes in 2009.  6 states saw an increase.

The Best State for Income Growth in 2009 was West Virginia with an increase 2.1%.  Despite this growth West Virginia has the 44th lowest income in the U.S. at $32,219. It did improve from a 49th ranking in 2008.

The Worst State For Income Growth was Nevada with a decrease of 4.8%.  Nevada with an income of $38,578 was ranked 20th in the U.S in personal income.

The Best State for Income in 2009 was Connecticut .  It had the highest state income at $54,397.   Additional Top States for Income were  New Jersey, Massachusetts, Maryland and New York .

The Worst State for Income was Mississippi .  At $30,013, it has the lowest state income.  Utah, Idaho, South Carolina and Kentucky were also Worst States for Income in 2009.

Income is only one factor in determining a Best State to Live.  Cost of Living , quality of education and job openings and availability should also be considered.

State Ranking of Income 2009

The ranking of states by income follows:

Historic Shrink of Government? States May Have No Choice

Smaller government fans may be in for a historic period.  Due to severe budget crises, state governments throughout the U.S. are “cutting budgets” i.e. shrinking in size.  Lack of money is forcing legislators, regardless of party affiliation, to shrink government spending.  In many cases states can not just raise taxes and fees enough to close the gaps.

Georgia, for example, this week, announced its revenue had shrank for the 15th consecutive month.  Revenue for February 2010 is a whopping 41.3% below February 2007.  January was down 27.3% from 2007.  Georgia legislators are faced with figuring out how to run the state on less money.  They will be forced to shrink the size of government.


The Tax Foundation recently highlighted Georgia’s budgetary issues in two releases, “Recession Offers Georgia Opportunity for Tax Reform”  and Georgia Cigarette Tax Hike Would Spur Cross-Border, Black Market Sales

Georgia residents pay the 16th-highest state-local tax burden in the country according to the Tax Foundation.

“There’s just no way to put a pretty face on it,” Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle said in an interview with The Associated Press. “We’ve got to cut this budget and we have to live within our means.”  (Emphasis added)

Georgia Not Alone, All States are Cutting

Georgia is not alone in facing severe cuts.

John Thomasian of the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices outlined the environment and cuts facing state governments in his paper, The Big Reset: State Government after the Great Recession

He writes, “So how must state government adjust to meet the new challenges? Already governors are grappling with this issue. Almost every state has an internal process underway to examine how to cut costs, and several states have created formal task forces or commissions to look at cost- savings and streamlining. Most efforts start by exploring the traditional tools of budget cutting: targeted and across-the-board program cuts, reductions to local aid, layoffs, benefit cuts, furloughs, and salary reductions. In today’s environment, however, states quickly find that these options do not shift the cost curve sufficiently, and they must look at actions that change the way government does business.

Additional steps that are being considered or undertaken today include:

Selling state assets (such as surplus equipment and state office buildings);

Consolidating data centers and IT functions;

Coordinating purchases across agencies;

Consolidating state real estate management into one entity and conducting a review of
real estate holdings and leasing arrangement; and

Reorganizing and combining agencies.”

Profound Changes in State Government

Thomasian writes,  “The current fiscal crisis has spawned a new round of state performance reviews, many of which will yield profound changes in the services state government delivers. This period of government downsizing and streamlining may be a protracted one, ending only when state budget health is restored. The delicate balance will be maintaining those services that help the state prosper, while eliminating those that produce the least value.”  (Emphasis added)

The challenge is that most of our legislators are reluctant to cut government programs.  Segments of the voting community also want their favored programs protected.  We may see a historic shrinking of state government if our legislators and voters reset budgets as circumstances dictate.

Those in favor of smaller government will be tested and have an opportunity to influence this process.

This “reset” of state government will affect all areas of lifestyle including education, jobs and safety. The big question yet to be answered is:  “Will people be happier with a smaller state government that taxes less and provides less services?”

Smoking States and Tobacco Producing States

Smoking has been on a long term decline in the U.S.

Total smokers in the U.S. according to Americas Health Rankings Assessment on Smoking have declined from 29.5% in 1990 to 18.3% in 2009.  Smokers as a per cent of the U.S. population have shrunk 38% since 1990.

Americas Health Rankings also does a great job in providing statistics for each of the states.  Smoking trends by State have some interesting aspects not quickly seen by observing the data.

The Best and Worst States 2009 Smokers by State map highlights high smoking and low smoking states.  It is listed below:

State Smoking Population Map

From the map it is readily apparent that the mid west and southern states have the strongest affinity for smoking.

The Best State for Non-Smokers, i.e. lowest smoking population, is Utah.  Only 9.3% of the Utah population smokes.  Additional Top States for Non-Smokers are California, New Jersey, Maryland and Hawaii.

The Best State for Smokers, i.e. the highest smoking population, is West Virginia with 26.5% of its population smokers.  Over one in four people over 18 smoke in West Virginia.  Additional Top States for Smokers are Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri and Oklahoma.  Nevada had the highest smoking population in 1990 at 35.7% according to Americas Health.  Nevada’s smoking population has since declined to 22.1%, a dramatic decline.

The entire 2009 list of Smokers by State is published below.

The populations of tobacco producing states are above average smokers.  It seems logical.  If a state produces lots of tobacco,  its population is more likely to smoke.  The chart of Top Producing Tobacco States supports this contention.   North Carolina has the most tobacco acreage by far and ranks as the 14th highest smoking state.  Kentucky, the 2nd largest tobacco producer, ranks 3 in the nation for highest per cent of its population being smokers.  Virginia and Connecticut appear to be outliers.  Virginia is the third largest producer yet its population ranks 40th in the nation for smoking.  Connecticut is the 9th largest producer of tobacco yet its smoking population is 44th or ranked 7th lowest state for smokers.  All the other Top Tobacco Producing States have above average smoking populations.

The Top Ten Tobacco Producing States are listed below along with their Smoker Rank.

Top Ten Tobacco Producing States

List of Smoking Population by State

If you consider smoking or non-smoking an important aspect of lifestyle, this info may help you find a state that fits your needs.  It might help you determine your Best State to Live.

Best States for Football Championships: Super Bowl Winners by State

Congratulations go to New Orleans Saints for winning their first Super Bowl Championship.

New Orleans and the entire state of Louisiana will celebrate and have bragging rights all year long.  Only 15 states have ever had the honor of being the home state of a Super Bowl Champion.

What States have the most Super Bowl Champions?

California has the honor of being the state with the most football Super Bowl Wins.  Its teams have won 8 of the 44 completed Super Bowls.  Two teams have contributed to California’s rank as the Best State for Football Championships. The San Francisco 49ers have 5 wins and the Oakland Raiders have 3.

Pennsylvania is the second Best State for Football Championships with all 6 wins coming from the Pittsburgh Steelers, the team with the most Super Bowl wins.  Texas is ranked as the third Best State for Football Championships with 5 wins, all by the Dallas Cowboys.

The state list of Super Bowl Winners is below:

Super Bowl Champions by State


Is Florida Best Place to Retire? Population Shrinking

The Florida Bureau of Economic and Business Research reported that Florida for the first time since 1946 population saw it population shrink.

We had reported in January that increasingly people were no longer choosing Florida as the Best State to Retire. The Internal Revenue Service reported that more than 50,000 fewer tax returns were filed in Florida since 2005.  See Florida Losing Population for more on the IRS filings and January report.

The director of the University of Florida’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research Stan Smith said the population dropped by 58,000 people between 2008 and 2009. This is the first decline since large numbers ofmilitary personnel left the state in 1946 after World War II.

Florida has become less attractive to many people on fixed incomes due to its expensive cost of housing particularly in South Florida and high real estate taxes and property insurance.

Tennessee, Georgia, North and South Carolina have become attractive choices as Best States to Retire.  Florida will not turn around quickly as many people on fixed incomes are still looking elsewhere.  Tennessee has the lowest cost of living in the nation.  See List of Cost of Living by State

If you are looking for a Best Place to Live or Retire, Florida has lost some mojo.

Schwarzenegger “California Best State.” Facts Don’t Support Claim

Governor Schwarzenegger put the Best and Worst States debate in the news during a July 3 San Francisco news conference.  See Sacramento

California regularly shows up as one of the Worst States in the union based on many important indicators.  Yet the Governor recently attempted to make a case for California being the best! He did not make a very persuasive case.  He claimed a diversified economy should be the benchmark to judge a best state.

Gov. Schwarzenegger said, “We are the best place simply because of we are a diversified economy,”

“What state has entertainment, music, agriculture, biotechnology, nanotechnology, green technology, high technology?”

We strongly disagreeCalifornia regularly ranks as one of the Worst States.

Here are just a few of the facts and measurements:

California has the Worst Credit rating of all 50 states in the country.  It has no money and is currently issuing iou’s.

California is rated 47th, a Worst State for Entrepreneurship and Small Businees, according to the Small Business and     Entrepreneurship Council.  CEO’s have ranked it the Worst State for 5 years in a row according to Chief Executive Magazine.

It is rated 49th, for  Best and Worst States for Individual Income Taxes according to the Tax Foundation.

California has the 2nd highest marginal income tax rate in the nation at 10.3%.  Only Hawaii is higher.

According to Missouri  California is the 2nd highest cost of living state in the country, behind only Hawaii.

California has the highest gas tax in the nation. See Best and Worst States for Gasoline Taxes.

California has the most unemployed people in the nation and has the 5th highest unemployment rate in the nation with 11.5% of     its population unemployed.

California has the most job red tape and licensing requirements of any state in the nation according with a nation     leading 177 job license requirements.

California has the 3rd most political convictions in the nation according to the Report to Congress on the Activities and Operations of     the Public Integrity Section.

Governor how can you say California is the best?

“Look at other states. … Texas? Oil. Florida? Old people. Whatever,” he said. “We have a whole bunch of things.”

Taking shots at Texas and Florida was also uncalled for and does not make the case for California.  These states rank far better than California regularly and are considered as top states for growing business. Both states’ populations enjoy zero personal income taxes.  Gov. Schwarzenegger should focus on California and not bash other states that are in far better position than his.

“California is doing very well,” he said. “We just have to get out of this crisis.”

We are all for Governors being salespeople for their states.  In this case Gov. Schwarzenegger telling the world that California is the best is just not believable.  The facts suggest otherwise.  Look in other states if you are thinking of relocating.

Best and Worst States for Motorists

The National Motorists Association (NMA) has published a Best and Worst States for Motorists list.  Just in time for the holiday weekend.  The NMA is against entrapment, cameras and other measures that enhance a state’s ability to write tickets and fine motorists.

With states facing huge shortfalls in revenue,  ticket writing will be a high priority.  The list highlights the states from Best to Worst.  Be careful driving.  The Worst States for Motorists also are some of the states facing the largest budget shortfalls.  Hold on to your wallet if you are driving in these states.  The 5 Worst States are New Jersey, Ohio, Maryland, Louisiana and New York.  The Best States, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska and Kentucky seem to be gentler places to live.

Best and Worst States for Motorists
1 Wyoming
2 Idaho
3 Montana
4 Nebraska
5 Kentucky
6 North Dakota
7 Minnesota
8 Indiana
9 South Dakota
10 Utah
11 Wisconsin
12 Mississippi
13 Kansas
14 Alaska
15 Arkansas
16 Hawaii
17 Iowa
18 South Carolina
19 Connecticut
20 Georgia
21 Nevada
22 Oklahoma
23 Texas
24 Missouri
25 New Mexico
26 Arizona
27 New Hampshire
28 West Virginia
29 Rhode Island
30 Alabama
31 North Carolina
32 Pennsylvania
33 Florida
34 Maine
35 Vermont
36 Michigan
37 California
38 Tennessee
39 Oregon
40 Colorado
41 Massachusetts
42 Washington
43 Virginia
44 Delaware
45 Illinois
46 New York
47 Louisiana
48 Maryland
49 Ohio
50 New Jersey

Source:National Motorist Association


List of Criteria Used To Generate Rankings (no particular order)

1) Speed Traps Per Capita (# of speed traps listed on indexed to population)
2) Does the state have “driver responsibility” fees?
3) Does the state have mayor’s courts?
4) Does the state authorize the use of roadblocks?
5) What are the freeway speed limits?
6) Does the state have red-light cameras?
7) Does the state have speed cameras?
8) Are there toll roads in the state?
9) Is a jury trial available for traffic violations?
10) Is trial by declaration (asserting a defense in writing without appearing in court) available?
11) Is the state a member of the Non-Resident Violator Compact?
12) Is the state a member of the Driver’s License Compact?
13) Are radar detectors banned in the state?
14) Does the state have a primary seat belt law?
15) Are there adult helmet laws in the state?
16) Are there move-over laws in the state?
17) Is cell phone use banned?

Best States for Gardening Weather

Farmers Almanac has recently published a fun list on the Best States for Gardening Weather.

The Best State for Gardening Weather is North Carolina. Kentucky was ranked 2nd Best.

While it does not appear to be a scientific poll, the survey strikes a chord about old fashioned values.  Good gardening and good neighbors seem to go together. Go to Farmers Almanac to see some of the comments on why states were selected.

If you are looking for a places to live where the gardening weather is good, this may be helpful.

Best State Weather for Gardening
Rank State % Vote
1 North Carolina 20%
2 Kentucky 13%
3 Texas 11%
4 California 11%
5 Florida 11%
6 Missouri 8%
7 New Jersey 7%
Source: Farmers Almanac

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Best and Worst States for Car Insurance: Does Safety Matter? publishes a monthly listing of car insurance rates.  We thought you might like to see March results.

We also thought it might be interesting to see if safe drivers as measured by the annual GMAC driver safety study had a measurable benefit in insurance rates.

The Best State for Car Insurance is Vermont with an estimated annual premium of $1,304.  It ranks 18 in the GMAC Safe Driver Study.  The 4 other Best States for Car Insurance, i.e. the lowest premiums, are Ohio, Iowa, Wisconsin and Idaho.  The safest state of the top 5 according to GMAC is Idaho with a safe driver rank of 4.  The safest driver state, Kansas, ranks 22 in car insurance premiums.

The Worst State for Car Insurance,( we put DC in a world of its own), is Louisiana with a premium of $2617 more than double that of Vermont!!!  It also ranks 44 on the GMAC Safe Driver Study.  New Jersey the Worst State for Safe Driving in the US has one of the highest car insurance rates rate just below Louisiana.  Rounding out the Worst States for Car Insurance are Delaware, Rhode Island and Pennsylvania.  All these state rate below average in the GMAC study.

Of the popular retirement states Tennessee is best rated for low premiums at 11.  Arizona at 25 and Florida at 36 are more middle of the pack

Car Insurance rates have dropped over the last 6 months yet are still higher than a year ago.  From a look of the list it appears that drivers who know the rules of the road benefit from safer roads and lower car insurance premiums.  It may be beneficial for insurance companies to offer discounts to drivers who take a car exam annually that demonstrates they know the rules of the road.

State Premium $$ Change % Change Safe Rank
1 VT $1,304 $47 3.70% 18
2 OH $1,320 $1 0.10% 26
3 IA $1,335 ($32) -2.30% 9
4 WI $1,348 ($28) -2.00% 12
5 ID $1,396 $14 1.00% 4
6 ME $1,406 $59 4.30% 31
7 NH $1,504 ($64) -4.10% 30
8 IN $1,528 $25 1.70% 11
9 SD $1,550 $97 6.70% 6
10 IL $1,559 $19 1.20% 32
11 TN $1,563 $1 0.00% 33
12 MT $1,573 ($39) -2.40% 15
13 NC $1,577 ($42) -2.60% 22
14 OR $1,586 ($23) -1.40% 8
15 AL $1,611 $29 1.80% 15
16 CO $1,611 ($28) -1.70% 15
17 NE $1,625 $91 5.90% 3
18 GA $1,626 ($46) -2.70% 47
19 MO $1,629 $5 0.30% 14
20 SC $1,638 ($24) -1.50% 39
21 VA $1,667 ($78) -4.50% 40
22 KS $1,668 $4 0.30% 1
23 ND $1,722 $58 3.50% 21
24 MN $1,728 $97 5.90% 5
25 AZ $1,739 ($93) -5.10% 36
26 CA $1,813 ($15) -0.80% 33
27 NM $1,845 ($16) -0.90% 22
28 UT $1,864 ($35) -1.90% 13
29 WA $1,882 $34 1.80% 9
30 OK $1,900 $54 2.90% 22
31 TX $1,921 ($55) -2.80% 18
32 AR $1,929 $17 0.90% 6
33 WY $1,934 $16 0.90% 2
34 MS $1,953 $19 1.00% 46
35 KY $1,984 ($52) -2.60% 29
36 FL $2,015 $8 0.40% 28
37 MI $2,076 ($49) -2.30% 18
38 CT $2,095 ($56) -2.60% 33
39 WV $2,095 $76 3.80% 43
40 NV $2,142 ($40) -1.90% 36
41 MD $2,144 ($48) -2.20% 42
42 PA $2,248 $65 3.00% 36
43 RI $2,356 ($32) -1.30% 41
44 DE $2,520 $11 0.40% 26
45 NJ $2,556 $14 0.50% 51
46 LA $2,617 $3 0.10% 44
47 DC $2,862 ($18) -0.60% 50
48 NY n/a 49
49 MA n/a 48
50 HI n/a 45
51 AK n/a 6


Best and Worst States for Seatbelt Usage, Michigan Best, Massachusetts Worst

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently released 2008 data on State seat belt usage.

The Best State for Seatbelt Usage is Michigan with a 97.2% usage.  The other top 5 Best States are Hawaii, Washington, Oregon and California.

The Worst State for Seatbelt Usage is Massachusetts with only a 66.8% usage.  The other Worst 5 States are Wyoming, New Hampshire, Arkansas and Mississippi.

These stats tend to get wide publicity and embolden states to take more action against citizens who do not use seat belts.

22 states do not allow police officers to stop motorists for not wearing a seat belt.  Primary States, those that allow stopping drivers for no seat belts, tend to have the highest seat belt usage.

According to a 2001 study of US crash data, it was found that previous estimates of seat belt effectiveness had been significantly overstated. According to the analysis used, seat belts were claimed to have decreased fatalities by 1.35% for each 10% increase in seat belt use.  Many drivers would prefer not to be pulled over for lack of seat belt usage.  Should we be asking our limited police departments to pull over drivers for not using seat belts? Are there more important “crimes” that our police should be pursuing?  Are drivers in Massachusetts that much more dangerous than Michigan?

‘The Effects of Mandatory Seat Belt Laws on Driving Behavior and Traffic Fatalities’ by Alma Cohen and Liran Einav at Harvard Law School      
State Seat Belt use %Change
1 Michigan 97.20% 3.50%
2 Hawaii 97.00% -0.60%
3 Washington 96.50% 0.10%
4 Oregon 96.30% 1.00%
5 California 95.70% 1.10%
6 Maryland 93.30% 0.20%
7 Iowa 92.90% 1.60%
8 New Jersey 91.80% 0.40%
9 Delaware 91.30% 4.70%
10 Indiana 91.20% 3.30%
11 Texas 91.20% -0.60%
12 New Mexico 91.10% -0.40%
13 Nevada 90.90% -1.30%
14 Illinois 90.50% 0.40%
15 Dist. Of Columbia 90.00% 2.90%
16 North Carolina 89.80% 1.00%
17 Georgia 89.60% 0.60%
18 West Virginia 89.50% -0.10%
19 New York 89.10% 5.60%
20 Connecticut 88.00% 2.20%
21 Vermont 87.30% 0.20%
22 Minnesota 86.70% -1.10%
23 Alabama 86.10% 3.80%
24 Utah 86.00% -0.80%
25 Pennsylvania 85.10% -1.60%
26 Alaska 84.90% 2.50%
27 Oklahoma 84.30% 1.20%
28 Maine 83.00% 3.20%
29 Nationwide 83% 1%
30 Ohio 82.70% 1.10%
31 Montana 82.60% 3.90%
32 Colorado 81.70% 0.60%
33 Florida 81.70% 2.60%
34 North Dakota 81.60% -0.60%
35 Tennessee 81.50% 1.30%
36 Virginia 80.60% 0.70%
37 Arizona 79.90% -1.00%
38 South Carolina 79.00% 4.50%
39 Kansas 77.40% 2.40%
40 Idaho 76.90% -1.60%
41 Missouri 75.80% -1.40%
42 Louisiana 75.50% 0.30%
43 Wisconsin 74.20% -1.10%
44 Kentucky 73.30% 1.50%
45 Rhode Island 72.00% -7.10%
46 South Dakota 71.80% -1.20%
47 Mississippi 71.30% -0.50%
48 Arkansas 70.40% 0.50%
49 New Hampshire 69.20% 5.40%
50 Wyoming 68.60% -3.60%
51 Massachusetts 66.80% -1.90%

Source:  National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

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