By Robert Davis, The Center Square
Wyoming earned an “A” grade for its fiscal health, according to a new report by fiscal watchdog group Truth in Accounting (TIA).
The state has a tax surplus of more than $19,500 per resident, TIA found, which ranks as the third-highest surplus in the country behind Alaska and North Dakota, respectively. Only 11 states have enough money to pay all their fiscal obligations, according to the report.
“The majority of states were financially unprepared for any crisis,” TIA CEO Sheila Weinberg said in a statement. “When states can’t pay their bills, taxpayers are on the hook.”
Wyoming, however, “had more than enough resources available,” according to the report, which noted the state’s $3.8 billion surplus is due in part to revenue it collects from the energy industry.
The average tax burden across the country was more than $9,300 last year, representing a more than 20% climb from 2019, according to the report.
TIA calculated state tax burdens by dividing the funds each state needs to pay its bills by the estimated number of state taxpayers. Similarly, tax surpluses were calculated by dividing the total amount of money left over after all a state’s bills were paid by the number of taxpayers.
The report said a majority of state debt comes from retirement plans such as pensions and retiree health care benefits. States set aside an average of $0.64 to fund pension promises and $0.08 to fund retiree health care last year, according to TIA.
Once the pandemic hit, funding for these obligations was shattered, leaving most states with far less money to pay out its growing obligations.
Wyoming’s retirement system netted a more than 27% return with more than $9.6 billion in assets and just $375 million in private debt, according to Wyoming’s retirement system financial outlook report.
The Center Square is a 501(c)(3) non-profit focused on state- and local-level government and economic reporting.