gu·ber·na·to·ri·al

Looking ahead to November, it’s more than easy to get caught up in the big national races.  Every day, it seems, Christine O’Donnell is saying or doing something else to irritate liberals in Delaware, Harry Reid is polling either slightly ahead or slightly behind Sharron Angle in Nevada, Barbara Boxer is desperately trying to not come off as a soulless elitists in California and, here in South Carolina, Alvin Greene is proving that the Democratic Party is indeed the Party of the Nincompoop.

Seeing the same faces day in and day out on the cable shows and the nightly news, hearing the same names on talk radio and at the water cooler, it’s easy to forget the monumental importance of the gubernatorial races taking place from coast to coast, the outcomes of which are made even more important because next year will bring with it redistricting in the wake of the 2010 Census, a process in which state chief executives often wield remarkable influence.

While Democrats currently have 26 governors and therefore the majority of states, an incredible 37 races are currently in progress — and probably a good 20 of those can be considered highly competitive.  And for Republicans, things are looking up, even if you ask some media outlets normally not too friendly to the Grand Ole’ Party.  Even back in March, the folks at NPR were less than optimistic, while just last month Chuck Todd and a couple of other reporters at NBC addressed ten races in particular and predicted that Republican newcomers would likely be moving into the State House in Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Michigan, Iowa, Tennessee, Kansas and Wyoming.

And that’s just to name a few states.  According to the Cook Political Report, since 1954 an incumbent president’s party has lost an average of 5.5 governorships in midterm elections — call me crazy, but considering that we’ve already seen evidence of a major sea change in New Jersey and Virginia, I think we’ll knock that 5.5 number out of the park in just under six weeks.

In the meantime, when it comes to fiscal policy–easily the biggest concern of this election cycle, and the driving force behind the Tea Party movement–wouldn’t it be nice to see where the various governors stack up against one another, especially on the eve of perhaps the biggest and most important mid-term election in a generation or more?  Well, you’re in luck, because just this morning the folks over at the Cato Institute released their 10th biennial Fiscal Policy Report Card on America’s Governors, an assessment of the best and worst governors on fiscal issues.

The report covered gubernatorial conduct and policy during and limited to a period of time between 2008 and now, and 45 out of 50 governors were included in the assessment; chief executives in Kansas, New Jersey, Virginia and Utah were excluded because they had only recently assumed office, and Alaska was left off “as in prior Cato reports … because of peculiarities in that state’s budget that make comparisons difficult.”  Governors received higher scores for cutting or even maintaining tax rates, and for reducing or merely keeping spending under control.  Lower scores were given to those chief executives who mimicked what they saw in Washington, D.C. and raised taxes and continued reckless spending.  Increasing a state’s business and income taxes proved particularly harmful for a particular governor’s score.  Cato’s description of its grading system:

The governors are graded on their fiscal performance from a limited-government perspective.  The governors receiving an “A” are those who cut taxes and spending the most, while the governors receiving an “F” raised taxes and spending the most.  The grading mechanism is based on seven variables, including two spending variables, one revenue variable, and four tax rate variables.  This matches the variables and methodology used in Cato’s 2008 report card.

The best of the best, as pointed out by The Wall Street Journal this morning, were understandably wary of decreasing revenues during the recession but nonetheless “proved that budgets can be balanced without raising tax rates even in severe downturns.”  The Journal especially considered six governors–not necessarily those who received an “A” from Cato, either–who brought spending back down to 2007 or 2008 levels in an attempt to balance a budget without stifling future economic and job growth through a tax increase: New Jersey’s Chris Christie, South Carolina’s Mark Sanford, Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal, Indiana’s Mitch Daniels, Texas’s Rick Perry, and Virginia’s Bob McDonnell have reset their 2011 spending to 2007 or 2008 levels. “Many Governors” the Journal noted, “also responded to lower revenue collections by selling state assets that are better managed in private hands: casinos, toll-roads, state-owned liquor stores, even buildings and land.”

As for the Cato report, what immediately follows are the 45 graded governors organized by letter grade.  The number after the name and state represents the Cato score, out of a possible 100.

GRADE ‘A’ GOVERNORS:

  • Mark Sanford (R-SC), 74
  • Bobby Jindal (R-LA), 71
  • Tim Pawlenty (R-MN), 66
  • Joe Manchin (D-WV), 66

GRADE ‘B’ GOVERNORS:

  • Dave Freudenthal (D-WY), 63
  • Don Carcieri (R-RI), 62
  • Brad Henry (D-OK), 62
  • Jim Gibbons (R-NV), 61
  • Rick Perry (R-TX), 61
  • Bob Riley (R-AL), 61
  • Brian Schweitzer (D-MT), 61
  • Sonny Perdue (R-GA), 60
  • Jay Nixon (D-MO), 59
  • C.L. “Butch” Otter (R-ID), 58
  • Bill Richardson (D-NM), 57
  • Jim Douglas (R-VT), 56
  • Mitch Daniels (R-IN), 56
  • John Baldacci (D-ME), 55
  • Martin O’Malley (D-MD), 55

GRADE ‘C’ GOVERNORS:

  • Steven Beshear (D-KY), 54
  • Jennifer Granholm (D-MI), 53
  • Haley Barbour (R-MS), 53
  • Mike Rounds (R-SD), 53
  • Phil Bredesen (D-TN), 53
  • Dave Heineman (R-NE), 51
  • John Hoeven (R-ND), 51
  • Linda Lingle (R-HI), 51

GRADE ‘D’ GOVERNORS:

  • Charlie Crist (R-FL), 49
  • Ted Strickland (D-OH), 49
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA), 47
  • Jack Markell (D-DE), 47
  • Mike Beebe (D-AK), 47
  • Chet Culver (D-IA), 47
  • Deval Patrick (D-MA), 43
  • John Lynch (D-NH), 41
  • Beverly Purdue (D-NC), 40
  • Jan Brewer (R-AZ), 40
  • “Fast Eddie” Ed Rendell (D-PA), 40

GRADE ‘F’ GOVERNORS:

  • Chris Gregoire (D-WA), 39
  • Jim Doyle (D-WI), 35
  • Bill Ritter (D-CO), 35
  • Pat Quinn (D-IL), 30
  • Jodi Rell (R-CT), 28
  • David Paterson (D-NY), 25
  • Ted Kulongoski (D-OR), 19

Now, please keep in mind that Cato’s grading system took a snapshot only of the last two years.  Charlie Crist, for example, was rated at the top of Cato’s 2008 report after slashing property taxes throughout his first year and a half in office, while Idaho’s “Butch” Otter was near the bottom after pushing back in 2007 for a $200 million increase in vehicle-related taxes to fund transportation spending.  Also keep in mind that the focus of the Cato report was solely on fiscal policy, so a particular governor’s rock-solid and courageous stance on illegal immigration would not figure in to the ratings.

While grading a state’s chief executive on something so simple and straightforward as the most basic money in-money out fiscal policy may seem a bit too selective, before dismissing the report as an arbitrary assessment of the performance of America’s governors, consider that the same factor considered here–fiscal common sense–is also the unifying factor for the Tea Party movement. And this year, as the revolt against big government reaches a fever pitch just in time for the mid-term election and the moment of truth for 37 gubernatorial seats, that unifying factor will be exactly what drives people to the polls.

To see the Cato Institute report in its entirety, click HERE.  It is fantastically informative, and includes information on all of the governors listed.

For more information on specific races, visit the War Room at the Republican Governors Association.  That’s where I found the gubernatorial race map — only, at the RGA site, it’s interactive!

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Comments

  1. Pixel Patriot says:

    thanks jeff
    keep up the good work!

  2. Boston Blackie says:

    Devalue Patrick only scored a “D”, I am shocked. He is up for reelection and is currently only pulling in 35% of the vote. Unfortunately the republican candidate is only pulling in 34%. We have the treasurer who is a democRAT running as a reformed conservative independent who is being the spoiler. Rumor has it a high level job is awaiting him after the race if he stays in it to the end. I would score Obeyme-Lite a red “F” which the nuns always said was worse than an “F”.

  3. Boston Blackie says:

    BTW, why is Charlie Crist listed as a republican!?!

  4. Gail B. says:

    Former Congressman Nathan Deal (R) of Georgia is increasing his lead against former Governor Roy Barnes (D), who has launched a nasty swmear campaign against Deal. Folks down here in the Peach State just do not like dirty campaign ads.

    I have already voted by absentee ballot (a paper ballot) because the electronic voting machines in Georgia are not auditable. There can be no real recount of the ballots.

  5. Jeff Schreiber says:

    “thanks jeff
    keep up the good work!”

    Kevin, there’s a reason I deleted your comment. There are places you can go if you want to discuss distractions from the major ideological battle going on right now. World Net Daily comes to mind. Here, not so much. It’s just about the only thing I ever delete comments over.

    Hate me if you want to, but right now those of us in favor of limited government and a return to the principles of our Founders have been handed a tremendous opportunity to not only wrest control from the statists, but to teach a lesson about the consequences of statism. Whether or not you feel that the Birther issue is a distraction is of no consequence — the White House is treating it as though it is mainstream, and is imputing it to the limited government movement as a whole. Think what you will of me, but I will have no part of it here.

    I hope you understand — and, for that matter, I hope you understand that I’ll understand if you take your business elsewhere, so to speak.

    Jeff

  6. Gail B. says:

    “BTW, why is Charlie Crist listed as a republican!?!”

    Because he WAS a Republican governor and is being graded as such.

  7. Boston Blackie says:

    Gail,
    I know, that’s my point. He WAS a republican. A long, long time ago I WAS a democRAT.

  8. mmm says:

    Jeff:
    You said:
    “Kevin, there’s a reason I deleted your comment. There are places you can go if you want to discuss distractions from the major ideological battle going on right now. World Net Daily comes to mind. Here, not so much. It’s just about the only thing I ever delete comments over.”

    Now I am curious. It would have been better to publish it and describe your position than to delete it. But that is my opinion.

    And, I am sure, if this grading system was done when Chris Christie was gov then he would be a “A.” Really, I think he’s the best. I just wanted to say that.

    And, if you deleted the comment because of some “birthing” issue regarding our president, that is an issue that I believe we will all find out much more when people want to cough up his college records, probably in 10 years. If nothing else, I want to see what grades he received. People were saying he was so intelligent, I think not. Why is he not wanting to show his transcripts? I’d show my law school ones if he’d show me his :)

    Anyways, I kinda liked your old website better, but this one is very exciting. I can’t access this one on lots of computers whereas the old one I could. I don’t know if you have it listed on “blogs page” or what.

    mmm

  9. Jeff Schreiber says:

    “Anyways, I kinda liked your old website better, but this one is very exciting. I can’t access this one on lots of computers whereas the old one I could. I don’t know if you have it listed on “blogs page” or what.”

    Please explain further, if you can…

    Thanks,

    Jeff

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