The Mercatus Center at George Mason University has released the 2017 edition of their annual analysis on the fiscal condition of the states.
While Nebraska still ranks in the top ten, the state fell compared to last year’s rankings from 2nd place to 6th. While Nebraska ranks better than most of its neighbors, it still faces competition regionally, with Wyoming and South Dakota surpassing the Cornhusker State.
When looking closer at the data, Nebraska’s ranking is more of a case of the state falling behind by standing still. Nebraska’s scores didn’t change much over the period studied, while states like North and South Dakota, Utah, and Florida improved on the amount of cash their state had to pay their bills. North Dakota also improved on its debt level, while Nebraska acquired more debt than in previous years.
There’s another catch to be aware of in the rankings, however – it’s based on financial reports from 2013 to 2015, which were only the beginning years of agricultural and energy commodity prices falling from their peak.
In the 2018 edition of the ranking, Nebraska and North Dakota, for example, may face a much more significant adjustment, as they’ve drawn from reserves for state spending in times when new revenue growth was in short supply.
While states like Illinois or Kansas have left their fiscal houses in disarray, other states are displaying an increasing capacity to put theirs in order.
The prospect of Nebraska slipping farther down the rankings for one of its claims to fame—fiscal stability—shows that resting on our laurels can be a competitive weakness for our state.
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