Check in Mail States Delay Tax Refunds

Some states may delay paying tax refunds again this year.  Taxpayers should call them the “Check In the Mail” States.

Last year Kansas, North Carolina, California and Missouri delayed tax refunds.  Taxpayers were not happy about it.  Tax refund delays are another sign of government mismanagement.  In response to last years fiasco, Missouri state house legislators this week passed a bill that if enacted will shorten the time period that the state can withhold payment without interest.  Missouri had to use stimulus money to pay its tax refunds.  See: Missouri State House Approves Quicker Refunds .

This year New York, Kansas, Iowa and Hawaii have already announced they may have to delay payments.  Taxpayers, who are entitled to refunds in these states, will unfortunately suffer.

Here are a few of the headlines and links to the state stories.

Hawaii will delay sending out tax refunds to balance budget

Hold It: Unpaid Parking tickets could delay Iowa tax refunds

NY Governor considers delays in paying tax refunds

Forbes recently published its “Special Report: The Global Debt Bomb.”  In one of its pieces,  United States of Debt , it ranks states according to financial health.  The metrics Forbes looked at for each state when building its ranking included unfunded pension liabilities, changes in tax revenue, credit agency ratings, debt as a percentage of Gross State Product, debt per capita, growth expectations for employment and the state economy, net migrations and a moocher ratio that compares government employees, pension burdens and Medicaid enrollees to private-sector employment.

The Worst States for Debt Trouble, according to Forbes, are Illinois, New York, Connecticut, California and New Jersey.

The States with the least Debt Problems are Utah, New Hampshire, Nebraska, Texas and Virginia.  All states have significantly lower debt per capita than the Worst States.  The Best States also have lower unemployment than the U.S. average of 9.7% and lower than the Worst States with Debt Problems.  The Best States for Jobs will typically have better government management of debt.

Forbes also ran an analysis that shows that the states with the Worst Debt and Financial Problems are blue states i.e. states controlled by Democrats.  The piece attributed political unions and big spending by Democrats as the cause of the deepest fiscal holes.
See Political Litmus Test: Bluest States Spilling The Most Red Ink

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

 

Best Turkey States

Minnesota is the Best Turkey State in the U.S.  It produces the most turkeys in the country.

The Top Turkey States in the nation are in order:  Minnesota, North Carolina, Missouri, Arkansas and Indiana.

We will consume an estimated 46 million turkeys on Thanksgiving which represents about one fifth of the annual U.S. turkey consumption.  The average annual consumption per capita in the U.S. is 13.8 lbs.

For the third quarter of 2009, U.S. turkey production was 1.42 billion lbs., down 9.7% from a year earlier, according to the most recent Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook from the Economic Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture.  A slight increase in turkey production is expected in 2010 over 2009.

Where are the Best Tasting Turkeys in the U.S.?

Answer:  At home of course.

Happy Thanksgiving.

States running out of Jobless Money, Taxing Employers More

23 States are now borrowing from the U.S. Government to pay for unemployment benefits. (California has borrowed  $4.5 billion as of mid October 2009, the most in the nation.)

This is only the beginning of the bad news for states and employers.  States will be borrowing more and taxing employers more in 2010. This will impact the willingness of companies to hire in the future.  This is not good news for the job market.

For example, Florida, which has borrowed $465 million as of mid October, this past week increased its unemployment insurance tax on employers for next year quite substantially.  The minimum tax will jump from $8.40 per employee to $100.30 – analmost 12-fold increase – while the maximum will go up from $378 peremployee to $459.  Florida is facing a multitude of issues as it tries to dig itself out of the faltering economy.  The Sun-Sentinel did a great piece this week highlighting how Florida is losing residents, jobs and borrowing $300 million per month to make unemployment payments.  See Shrinking Florida faces tough choices as residents flee, jobs vanish

Arizona is among 33 states that will increase unemployment compensationtaxes next year, according the National Association of State WorkforceAgencies.  See  State tax push makes U.S. firms wary of adding jobs

Arizona recently asked to borrow $600 million in federal funds to keep its jobless payments going.  With its October 2009 unemployment rate of 9.3% Arizona will be needing to raise taxes on employers as well.  It is currently estimated that Arizona will increase its tax 41.8% on employers in January 2010.  See Arizona jobless funds running out

Most states will announce their unemployment tax rates for 2010 before year end and taxes will be increasing.  This is bad news for employers and the outlook for jobs. The Heritage Foundation’s Foundry blog recently posted a good explanation on how these increases will further hurt the job market.  See How Unemployment Taxes and Obama’s Stimulus Are Killing Jobs

The List of States Borrowing To Pay Unemployment Benefits follows.  We added Arizona to the BLS list that was compiled as of October 19, 2009.

Rank State Fed Loan
1 California $4.5 billion
2 Michigan $2.8 billion
3 New York $1.6 billion
4 Ohio $1.4 billion
5 North Carolina $1.3 billion
6 Pennsylvania $1.3 billion
7 Indiana $1.3 billion
8 New Jersey $700 million
9 Texas $697 million
10 Wisconsin $684 million
11 Arizona $600 million
12 Illinois $590 million
13 South Carolina $570 million
14 Kentucky $469 million
15 Florida $465 million
16 Missouri $326 million
17 South Dakota $308 million
18 Minnesota $143 million
19 Arkansas $135 million
20 Rhode Island $104 million
21 Idaho $73 million
22 Alabama $47 million
23 Connecticut $31 million

Source:Bureau of Labor Statistics

State SAT Scores 2009

The College Board released today the 2009 SAT Scores by State.  They strongly encourage people to look at the data stand alone yet it seems everyone wants to see the SAT Rankings by State. We picked them up from a variety of news sources and present them to you with caution.  Some states have low participation rates and arguably can tilt the field.  We will follow up with some analysis in a future post.  Also see our post Does Increased Spending on Higher Education lead to Better State University Rankings?

Top SAT State Scores include Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Missouri.  These States primarily have their students take the ACT test so their numbers may not be representative of the entire state.

The Worst States for SAT Scores include Maine, Hawaii, South Carolina, Georgia and New YorkDC is also very low.
Here is the ranking of SAT Scores by State List:

2009 State Sat Scores

Rate Reading Math Writing Total
1 Iowa 3% 610 615 588 1813
2 Wisconsin 5% 594 608 582 1784
3 Minnesota 7% 595 609 578 1782
4 Missouri 5% 595 600 584 1779
5 Illinois 6% 588 604 583 1775
6 Michigan 5% 584 603 575 1762
7 South Dakota 3% 589 600 569 1758
8 Nebraska 4% 587 594 572 1753
9 North Dakota 3% 590 593 566 1749
10 Kansas 7% 581 589 564 1734
11 Kentucky 7% 573 573 561 1707
12 Oklahoma 5% 575 571 557 1703
13 Tennessee 10% 571 565 565 1701
14 Arkansas 5% 572 572 556 1700
15 Colorado 20% 568 575 555 1698
16 Wyoming 5% 567 568 550 1685
17 Mississippi 4% 567 554 559 1680
18 Louisiana 7% 563 558 555 1676
19 Alabama 7% 557 552 549 1658
20 Utah 6% 559 558 540 1657
21 New Mexico 11% 553 546 534 1633
22 Ohio 22% 537 546 523 1606
23 Montana 22% 541 542 519 1602
24 Idaho 18% 541 540 520 1601
25 Washington 53% 524 531 507 1563
26 New Hampshire 75% 523 523 510 1557
27 Massachusetts 84% 514 526 510 1551
28 Oregon 52% 523 525 499 1548
29 Vermont 64% 518 518 506 1543
30 Connecticut 83% 509 513 512 1535
31 Arizona 26% 516 521 497 1534
32 Alaska 46% 520 516 492 1528
33 Virginia 68% 511 512 498 1522
34 California 49% 500 513 498 1511
35 West Virginia 18% 511 501 499 1511
36 New Jersey 76% 496 513 496 1506
37 Maryland 69% 500 502 495 1498
38 Rhode Island 66% 498 496 494 1489
39 North Carolina 63% 495 511 480 1487
40 Nevada 42% 501 505 479 1485
41 Indiana 63% 496 507 480 1484
42 Delaware 71% 495 498 484 1478
43 Pennsylvania 71% 493 501 483 1478
44 Florida 59% 497 498 480 1476
45 Texas 51% 486 506 475 1468
46 New York 85% 485 502 478 1466
47 Georgia 71% 490 491 479 1461
48 South Carolina 67% 486 496 470 1453
49 Hawaii 58% 479 502 469 1451
50 Maine 90% 468 467 455 1391
51 DC 79% 466 451 461 1379
All Students 46% 501 515 493 1509

Source: College Board and various news services Rate: Student Population Rate as reported by www.collegeboard.com

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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Tax Freedom Day 2009: Pick Your State Carefully

The Tax Foundation recently released their 2009 Tax Freedom Day Study.  It measures how many days the average worker must work to  pay taxes. There is a wide disparity among states. The tax burden you bear can significantly impact your quality of life.

The Best State for Tax Freedom is Alaska where it takes 82 days almost 25% of the year just to pay taxes.  Louisiana, Mississippi, South Dakota, North Dakota and West Virginia are also rated Best States for Tax Freedom.  If you are not retired, these states would be considered as candidates for Best States to Work.

The Worst State for Tax Freedom is Connecticut where it takes 120 days or until April 30 to pay taxes.  If you live in Connecticut 1/3 of your time every year goes to pay taxes to the Federal, State and Local governments.  That is almost 50% more days than Alaska.  New Jersey, New York, California and Maryland are also rated Worst States for Tax Freedom.

According to the Tax Foundation study, five major categories of tax dominate the tax burden. Individual income taxes, both federal and state, require 38 days’ work. Payroll taxes take another 27 days’ work. Sales and excise taxes, mostly state and local, take 15 days to pay off. Corporate income taxes take 6 days, and property taxes take 12. Americans will log 4 more days to pay other miscellaneous taxes, most notably including motor vehicle license taxes and severance taxes, and about 1 day for estate taxes.

What state you live in is very important in determining your lifestyle as higher cost of living states tend to have higher tax burdens.  Lower disposable income is the result.  Many states are also increasing many taxes due to economic conditions which will increase tax burdens.  Noteworthy examples are the proposed increases in New York and California that will make these heavily burdened states more undesirable to live.  If you are not retired, New York and California would have to be considered as 2 of the Worst States to Work.

Tax
State Days Freedom Day
1 Alaska 82 23-Mar
2 Louisiana 87 28-Mar
3 Mississippi 87 28-Mar
4 South Dakota 88 29-Mar
5 North Dakota 91 1-Apr
6 West Virginia 91 1-Apr
7 Alabama 92 2-Apr
8 New Mexico 92 2-Apr
9 Montana 93 3-Apr
10 Kentucky 93 3-Apr
11 Oklahoma 94 4-Apr
12 Iowa 94 4-Apr
13 South Carolina 94 4-Apr
14 Arkansas 94 4-Apr
15 Tennessee 95 5-Apr
16 Wyoming 95 5-Apr
17 Missouri 96 6-Apr
18 Maine 96 6-Apr
19 Texas 96 6-Apr
20 Nebraska 98 8-Apr
21 Kansas 98 8-Apr
22 Nevada 98 8-Apr
23 Indiana 98 8-Apr
24 Florida 99 9-Apr
25 Oregon 99 9-Apr
26 North Carolina 99 9-Apr
27 Michigan 100 10-Apr
28 Arizona 100 10-Apr
29 New Hampshire 100 10-Apr
30 Ohio 101 11-Apr
31 Delaware 101 11-Apr
32 Vermont 102 12-Apr
33 Idaho 102 12-Apr
34 Georgia 102 12-Apr
35 Colorado 102 12-Apr
36 Illinois 103 13-Apr
37 Hawaii 103 13-Apr
38 Utah 103 13-Apr
39 Wisconsin 103 13-Apr
40 Pennsylvania 104 14-Apr
41 Rhode Island 104 14-Apr
42 Minnesota 105 15-Apr
43 Washington 106 16-Apr
44 Massachusetts 106 16-Apr
45 Virginia 106 16-Apr
46 Maryland 109 19-Apr
47 California 110 20-Apr
48 New York 115 25-Apr
49 New Jersey 119 29-Apr
50 Connecticut 120 30-Apr

Source: Tax Foundation, Tax Freedom Day

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State Unemployment Up Everywhere in Feb, Michigan tops 12% Unemployed

The February 2009 State Unemployment numbers were released this past week and they were not pretty. Every state in the U.S. saw its unemployment rate increase.

Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)  also released March Unemployment, along with Feb state data, and the nationwide unemployment rate increased again to 8.5% nationwide.  It was 8.1% in February.

Seven States had unemployment above 10% in February.  Michigan was the Worst State for Jobs with a whopping 12% unemployment number.  South Carolina, Oregon, North Carolina, California Rhode Island and Nevada also qualify as Worst States for Employment as the 6 other states with unemployment above 10% .

The Best State for Jobs based on a low 3.9% unemployment is Wyoming. 4 other states qualify as Best States for Employment with rates still below 5%.  They are:  Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Iowa.

Some of the state year on year changes are quite large.  Unemployment increased by over 100% from last year in Hawaii and Oregon for example.  Of the large states, Texas is holding up the best with unemployment of only 6.2% in February which was below the U.S. Feb average of 8.1%.

State data is released with a one month lag so expect March state unemployment to get even worse as unemployment increased nationwide in March by .4%.

State Feb-08 Feb-09 Change
1 Michigan 7.4 12 4.6
2 South Carolina 5.7 11 5.3
3 Oregon 5.4 10.8 5.4
4 North Carolina 5.2 10.7 5.5
5 California 6.2 10.5 4.3
6 Rhode Island 6.5 10.5 4
7 Nevada 5.5 10.1 4.6
8 District of Columbia 6.1 9.9 3.8
9 Florida 5.2 9.4 4.2
10 Indiana 5 9.4 4.4
11 Ohio 5.9 9.4 3.5
12 Georgia 5.4 9.3 3.9
13 Kentucky 5.6 9.2 3.6
14 Mississippi 5.9 9.1 3.2
15 Tennessee 5.5 9.1 3.6
16 Illinois . 5.9 8.6 2.7
17 Alabama 4.1 8.4 4.3
18 Washington 4.7 8.4 3.7
19 Missouri 5.5 8.3 2.8
20 New Jersey 4.7 8.2 3.5
21 Minnesota 5 8.1 3.1
22 Alaska 6.5 8 1.5
23 Maine 4.9 8 3.1
24 Massachusetts 4.6 7.8 3.2
25 New York 4.6 7.8 3.2
26 Wisconsin 4.5 7.7 3.2
27 Pennsylvania 4.8 7.5 2.7
28 Arizona 4.5 7.4 2.9
29 Connecticut 5.2 7.4 2.2
30 Delaware 4 7.4 3.4
31 Colorado 4.5 7.2 2.7
32 Vermont 4.4 7 2.6
33 Idaho 3.9 6.8 2.9
34 Maryland 3.7 6.7 3
35 Arkansas 4.8 6.6 1.8
36 Virginia 3.5 6.6 3.1
37 Hawaii 3.1 6.5 3.4
38 Texas 4.5 6.5 2
39 Montana 4 6 2
40 West Virginia 4.2 6 1.8
41 Kansas 4 5.9 1.9
42 Louisiana 3.8 5.7 1.9
43 Oklahoma 3.2 5.5 2.3
44 New Mexico 3.8 5.4 1.6
45 New Hampshire 3.7 5.3 1.6
46 Utah 3.3 5.1 1.8
47 Iowa 3.9 4.9 1
48 South Dakota 2.7 4.6 1.9
49 North Dakota 3 4.3 1.3
50 Nebraska 3 4.2 1.2
51 Wyoming 2.8 3.9 1.1
p = preliminary.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Cost of Living by State, Tennessee the Best, Hawaii Worst

The Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC) has some valuable information on the the cost of living for each State.

The Best States for Cost of Living are Tennessee, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Missouri and Arkansas.

The Worst States for Cost of Living are Hawaii, DC, California, New Jersey and Alaska.

Map below for cost of living is courtesy of MERIC.

The Best States for Housing Costs are Oklahoma, Tennessee, South Dakota, Texas and Missouri.

The Worst States for Housing Costs are Hawaii, DC, California, Maryland and New Jersey.

If you are looking for the Best State to Retire, the cost of living is a very important consideration.  If you want to stretch your dollar, look to the Southeast and Midwest and stay away from the North East.  Hope this helps.

Cost of Living Annual Map

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