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In The News

The Hottest Job Markets in the Country: What Policies are Driving Americans to These Cities?

From: State Policy Network

In April 2022, The Wall Street Journal released their annual rankings of the best job markets in the country. Top of the list? Not the big cities that may first come to mind. The cities with the hottest job markets are all mid-size, and each is in a different state. They are:

  • Austin, Texas
  • Nashville, Tennessee
  • Raleigh, North Carolina
  • Salt Lake City, Utah
  • Jacksonville, Florida

What state and local policies are creating jobs and attracting workers to these cities? We sat down with the local policy organization in each of these states to get their take.

Low taxes

As The Wall Street Journal pointed out, Florida, Texas, and Tennessee have no income tax—while North Carolina and Utah have an income tax rate of below five percent. A state with no income tax means people get to keep more of what they earn—an attractive policy for workers that also spurs economic growth.

The Beacon Center of Tennessee, Joh Locke Foundation (North Carolina), Libertas Institute (Utah), Texas Public Policy Foundation, and The James Madison Institute (Florida)—which are based in (or close by) the cities with the hottest job markets—pointed to their state’s income tax policy as one of the main reasons why those cities have seen such enormous job growth in the past few years.

And some of those state think tanks played a role in helping their state reduce or eliminate the income tax. In 2017, through a comprehensive campaign, the Beacon Center helped Tennessee become truly income tax free. In June 2021, the John Locke Foundation played a key role in North Carolina reducing its income tax rate from 5.25 percent to 4.99 percent.

It’s not just their income tax policy that leads to more job opportunities. Low taxes overall are also a key driver of job growth. Overall, the cities with the best job markets have a low tax burden.

Beacon Center’s Director of Policy and Research, Ron Shultis, observed: “Every year, thousands of people across the United States move to Tennessee. While their reasons may vary, many choose to live here due to state-level policies such as the lack of a state income tax, low taxes per capita, and low levels of debt.”

Dr. Robert McClure, president and CEO of The James Madison Institute, added: “Florida boasts responsible fiscal policies, great infrastructure, a reasonable regulatory load, and no state income tax.”

In their 2022 report, “Rich States, Poor States,” the American Legislative Exchange Council noted: “Generally speaking, states that spend less—especially on income transfer programs—and states that tax less—particularly on productive activities such as working or investing—experience higher growth rates than states that tax and spend more.”

Minimal regulations

Small businesses provide jobs for the people in their community. However, burdensome regulations make it hard for business owners and entrepreneurs to open and run a business. States that understand the plight of business owners and work to make it as easy as possible for them to run a business see more growth than states with more regulations. Austin, Nashville, Raleigh, Salt Lake City, and Jacksonville are all located in states with relatively minimal regulations.

These low regulations attract out-of-state businesses and are a big reason why so many companies are relocating to these five cities. Tesla, Space X, Oracle, and Hewlett Packard Enterprise have all moved from California to Texas. Tennessee has seen a similar pattern, with 25 California companies moving to the Volunteer State from 2018 to 2021. Those businesses bring thousands of job opportunities along with them.

The Texas Public Policy Foundation added: “It is no secret that pro-growth policies — low taxes and a light regulatory burden—have propelled population growth in Texas and Florida while the opposite has occurred in California, Illinois, and New York. Elected officials’ response to COVID-19 likely accelerated this trend in 2020, with Florida and Texas netting more than half of the nation’s 1.15 million population increase from mid-2019 to mid-2020.

In Utah, an innovative policy called a regulatory sandbox is attracting entrepreneurs and workers from all over the country. A regulatory sandbox is a legal classification that creates a space where participating businesses won’t be subject to onerous regulations—usually for a limited amount of time.

Pioneered by the Libertas Institute, Utah was the first state to pass an all-inclusive regulatory sandbox in 2021. Sandboxes allow new businesses to develop more easily—which can create jobs and opportunities for communities.

A regulatory sandbox is just one example of a Utah policy that is contributing to job growth in Salt Lake City and beyond. Connor Boyack, the CEO of the Libertas Institute, added:

“While Utah typically ranks well for having a low overall tax burden, good fiscal management, and low business regulations compared to most states, the state is particularly attractive to families who want friendly neighbors, and outdoor playground for all seasons, and a good place to raise their children. Salt Lake City and our surrounding communities boast a very low unemployment rate with high-paying jobs in an environment that supports entrepreneurship and attracts significant capital investment. For anyone looking to prosper, Utah is a great place to be.”

Ample housing supply

An affordable home is becoming out of reach for many middle class and lower income families. To address this problem, many states, including Florida, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah, are adopting housing reforms that increase housing supply and lower costs.

Brooke Medina, vice president of communications at the John Locke Foundation in Raleigh, noted:

“Affordability and opportunity make Raleigh one of the hottest cities in the country. The research, tech, and economic clout Raleigh boasts stem from an extensive talent pool and pro-growth policies that Locke has championed, such as reducing the corporate and personal income tax, creating a regulatory sandbox, a K-12 education environment that is teeming with innovations, and efforts to ensure the housing supply keeps up with population growth. For these reasons, and more, Raleigh is increasingly recognized as a place where individuals, families, and businesses can thrive.”

Logan Padgett, vice president of communications and government affairs at The James Madison Institute in Jacksonville, added:

“Jacksonville is like many of Florida’s major metropolitan areas—booming. More than 800 people a day move to the sunshine state and as south Florida becomes more congested, Jacksonville’s culture, climate, and proximity as a beach city make it extraordinarily attractive as a destination. In addition, it’s size in land mass makes it more amenable to growth.”

Right-to-work state

Another thing Austin, Nashville, Raleigh, Salt Lake City, and Jacksonville have in common? They are all located in right-to-work states.

Right-to-work laws state no person should have to join a union or pay union dues in order to have or keep a job. If a person wants to join a union, they can; right-to-work just ensures they have the freedom to choose for themselves. Twenty-seven states have right-to-work laws on the books. Studies show that right-to-work states attract more new businesses than non-right-to-work states. In addition, workers in right-to-work states enjoy higher incomes than workers in non-right-to-work states.

Ron Shultis, Beacon’s director of policy and research, added: “Right-to-work is one of the reasons—even if you didn’t understand or know what it is—why those people moved here [Tennessee]. It’s what creates the environment for you to be able to get that job, a good house, a lower cost of living. It’s what makes Tennessee attractive for people and businesses.”

Other states can learn from these cities driving job growth and opportunity

The cities with the hottest job markets all have policies that encourage innovation, reduce regulations, and incentivize work. These policies can serve as a model for other states looking to attract more jobs and opportunities to their state.

Kentucky’s big move in the Rainy Day Fund rankings

From: Bluegrass Institute

The progress Kentucky has made establishing legitimate budget reserves received some nice validation last week when the Pew Charitable Trusts reported their FY ‘21 “Rainy Day Fund” state trends. From their Fiscal 50: State Trends and Analysis update:

Rainy day funds, also known as budget stabilization funds, grew in more than two-thirds of states — 35 — during fiscal 2021, according to figures reported to the National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO). A slightly greater number of states—36—posted increases in the number of days they could run government operations using rainy day funds alone compared with the previous year.

Their Rainy Day Fund Highlights section included:

Kentucky had the greatest increase in days (+51.2 days), followed by California (+40), Colorado (+34.4), New Hampshire (+34), and Connecticut (+27.6).

Pew’s website allows for graphical representations of longer term trends from the data. Look at how Kentucky moved past the 50-state median from FY ‘20 to FY ‘21:

Kentucky Rainy Day

Based upon the FY ‘21 figures, Kentucky ranked 12th among the states with the strongest budget reserves relative to their total spending. (Note from Pew on their metric to compare states: “One way to standardize the size of reserves and balances is to calculate how many days a state could run solely on those funds, even though the scenario is highly unlikely.”)

Frankfort’s arrival at a bipartisan Rainy Day Fund consensus has been impressive. It should not, however, be taken for granted.

For decades, government spending has been the first prerogative in Kentucky’s state capital. Establishing sufficient budget reserves to deal with cyclical revenue fluctuations or to prepare for unforeseeable circumstances hasn’t been a high priority.

This seems to be changing, due in no small part to the leadership of the current chairmen of the legislature’s Appropriations and Revenue Committees.

The next critical task is developing a statutory framework around the budget reserves. It must become more than an account with money tucked away. Instead, the Rainy Day Fund should become a program with clear guidelines on how to manage it, in good times and in bad.

State unemployment by race and ethnicity

From: Economic Policy Institute

EPI analyzes state unemployment rates by race and ethnicity, and racial/ethnic unemployment rate gaps, on a quarterly basis to generate a sample size large enough to create reliable estimates of unemployment rates by race and ethnicity at the state level.

We report estimates only for states for which the sample size of these subgroups is large enough to create an accurate estimate. For this reason, the number of states included in our maps and data tables varies based on the analysis performed. The following analysis contains data on the first quarter of 2022 and the fourth quarter of 2021.

First-quarter 2022 state unemployment rates, trends, and ratios

Two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, with over 80 million reported cases and nearly 1 million deaths in the United States, the labor market is approaching its 2020 pre-pandemic level of tightness. As the Omicron variant of COVID-19 subsided, many state economies continued their return to more normal economic activity. Unions worked to solidify the gains in worker power afforded to them by the conditions of the pandemic and the “Great Reshuffling,” with high-profile grassroots wins secured by Amazon and Starbucks workers.

Overall unemployment rates 2022Q1
  • Highest: D.C. (6.1%) • N.M. (5.6%) •
    Alaska & Calif. (5.3%) • Nev. & Penn. (5.1%)
  • Lowest:
    Neb. & Utah (2.1%) • Ind. (2.3%) • Kan. & Mont. (2.5%)
  • National: 3.8%

The national unemployment rate in 2022Q1 was 3.8%, matching its rate in 2020Q1 and continuing an overall labor market tightening that brought with it some measure of increased worker bargaining power. A majority of states had unemployment rates less than or within 1 percentage point of their pre-pandemic (2020Q1) unemployment rate.

The lowest unemployment rates were found in Nebraska (2.1%) and Utah (2.1%), while the highest rates were in D.C. (6.1%) and New Mexico (5.6%). Twelve states had unemployment rates under 3% at the beginning of the year, underlining the overall tightness seen in the recovery since the pandemic that began two years prior. Even so, the return to normalcy proceeded at different paces across different groups.

First-quarter 2022 trends among white workers

The white unemployment rate nationwide dropped to 3.0% in 2022Q1, matching its 2020Q1 level. A majority of states had white unemployment rates less than or within 1 percentage point of their pre-pandemic (2020Q1) white unemployment rate.

White unemployment rates fell as low as 1.7% in D.C. and Nebraska, even lower than their 2020Q1 rates (2.0% and 2.7%, respectively). Nearly half the states (24 plus D.C.) had white unemployment rates at or below 3%. The highest unemployment rates for white workers were found in California (4.5%) and Maryland (4.4%)—higher than their 2020Q1 rates (3.5% and 2.9%, respectively), but low by most standards of labor market tightness.

First-quarter 2022 trends among Black workers

At the national level, Black workers saw an unemployment rate of 6.5%, still slightly higher than their 2020Q1 rate of 6.2%. Georgia (5.0%) and Florida (5.3%) saw the lowest rates among those states with large enough samples to analyze. No state saw a Black unemployment rate below 5%. The Black unemployment rate remained above 10% in D.C. and Illinois, at 12.5% and 12.2%, respectively.

Less than half of states for which data are available had Black unemployment rates less than or within 1 percentage point of their pre-pandemic rate.

The national Black–white unemployment ratio remained unchanged at 2.2-to-1, reconfirming one of the most persistent trends in this area of research. This ratio remains highest in D.C., where it rose sharply over the previous quarter: A 31% decline in white unemployment combined with persistent high Black unemployment to bump the ratio to 7.2-to-1. In contrast, the Black–white unemployment ratio in the neighboring state of Maryland was the lowest in the country, at 1.3-to-1. This again points to the unique nature of the D.C. labor market and its emphasis on white-collar federal employment.

First-quarter 2022 trends among Hispanic workers

Hispanic workers had an unemployment rate of 4.6% at the national level in 2022Q1, slightly below their 2020Q1 pre-pandemic rate of 4.8%. Hispanic state-level unemployment was lowest in Georgia (2.0%) and North Carolina (2.5%), and highest in Massachusetts (7.5%) and New York (6.3%).

In eight states (among the 13 states with sufficient sample size for analysis), the Hispanic unemployment rate was at or below 5% in 2022Q1. In all but one of the 13 states analyzed, the Hispanic unemployment rate was less than or within 1 percentage point of the pre-pandemic rate.

Nationwide, Hispanic workers were 55% more likely than white workers to be unemployed in 2022Q1 (a Hispanic–white unemployment ratio of 1.55-to-1, rounded to 1.6-to-1).

Massachusetts had the highest Hispanic–white unemployment ratio at 1.9-to-1. North Carolina and Georgia both had unemployment ratios of 0.8-to-1, meaning that in those states Hispanic workers were less likely to be unemployed than white workers were.

First-quarter 2022 trends among Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) workers

AAPI workers saw a national unemployment rate of 3.4% in 2022Q1, slightly above the rate for white workers yet below the rates for Black and Hispanic workers. The AAPI unemployment rate for 2022Q1 remains slightly above its 2020Q1 pre-pandemic rate of 3.1%.

Among the five states with sufficient sample size for analysis, AAPI state unemployment rates were lowest in Texas, New York, and Hawaii (all tied at 3.8%), and highest in New Jersey (5.0%) and California (4.7%). Of these five states, only New Jersey and Texas had AAPI unemployment rates less than or within 1 percentage point of their pre-pandemic rate.

Fourth-quarter 2021 state unemployment rates, trends, and ratios

The fourth quarter of 2021 saw steady improvement in the labor market, even as the Omicron variant of COVID-19 continued to spread across the country. Though the incidence of cases was relatively high throughout the Omicron outbreak, the widespread availability of vaccines and boosters limited the severity of those cases. As workers moved back into the labor market, the economy continued to grow, though at a slower pace than in previous quarters of the recovery from 2020’s recession.

Inflation remained a presence throughout the economy, leading Fed Chair Powell to announce an increase in the pace of the Fed’s tapering policy (slowing down their economy-stimulating strategy of purchasing bonds).

The national unemployment rate in 2021Q4 fell to 4.2%, consistent with what many economists refer to as a “tight” labor market. Unemployment rates fell to as low as 2.3% and 2.4% in Utah and Nebraska, respectively. No states had overall unemployment rates higher than 10%; the highest unemployment rates were found in D.C. (6.2%), New Mexico (6.0%), and California (5.9%). A majority of states had unemployment rates less than or within 1 percentage point of their pre-pandemic (2020Q1) unemployment rate. These trends of course mask disparities across groups.

Fourth-quarter 2021 trends among white workers

At the national level, white workers had an unemployment rate of just 3.3% in 2021Q4, nearly as tight as the labor market for white workers prior to the pandemic (3.0% in 2020Q1).  A majority of states had white unemployment rates less than or within 1 percentage point of their pre-pandemic (2020Q1) white unemployment rate.

White workers saw the highest unemployment rates in Hawaii (5.5%), Maryland (5.2%), and Connecticut (5.0%). That said, even these highest rates are relatively low in the context of other groups and previous periods. White unemployment rates fell to 2.0% or lower in Nebraska (1.9%), Utah (2.0%), and South Dakota (2.0%). Low rates were not experienced across all groups, however, as seen in the following sections.

Fourth-quarter 2021 trends among Black workers

Black workers saw a national unemployment rate of 7.2% in 2021Q4, higher than the highest state unemployment rate for white workers. It is also higher than the pre-pandemic (2020Q1) rate by 1 percentage point. Less than half of states for which data are available had Black unemployment rates less than or within 1 percentage point of their pre-pandemic rate.

There were still states in which the Black unemployment rate exceeded 10.0% this late into the recovery: Illinois (13.1%), D.C. (11.4%), California (11.1%), and Michigan (10.7%). Among the states with population sizes large enough for analysis, the lowest Black unemployment rates were found in Florida (4.7%) and Georgia (4.9%). These were the only states in which the unemployment rate for Black workers fell below 5.0%.

Nationwide, Black workers were more than twice as likely as white workers to be unemployed in 2021Q4, with the Black–white unemployment ratio at 2.2-to-1. Black–white state unemployment ratios were highest in D.C. (4.5-to-1) and Illinois (3.4-to-1), and lowest in Maryland (1.1-to-1). The sharp discrepancy between D.C.’s high ratio and Maryland’s low ratio reflects the specific makeup of the D.C. labor market, skewed as it is toward white-collar federal employment.

Fourth-quarter 2021 trends among Hispanic workers

Hispanic workers nationwide saw an unemployment rate of 5.2% in 2021Q4, in between the rates for Black and white workers, and slightly higher than their 2020Q1 rate (by 0.4 percentage points).

Of those states where population sizes met the threshold for analysis, the highest Hispanic state unemployment rates were found in Massachusetts (7.9%) and New York (7.1%), while the lowest rates were found in Georgia (1.7%) and Utah (2.9%). A majority of the analyzed states had Hispanic unemployment rates less than or within 1 percentage point of their pre-pandemic (2020Q1) Hispanic unemployment rate.

Hispanic workers were 60% more likely to be unemployed than white workers when considering the entire country (a Hispanic-white unemployment ratio of 1.6-to-1. Hispanic workers were twice as likely as white workers to be unemployed in Massachusetts, the state with the highest Hispanic–white unemployment ratio in 2021Q4 (2.1-to 1). In some states, Hispanic workers were significantly less likely to be unemployed than white workers; in Georgia and Washington state, the Hispanic–white unemployment ratios were 0.6-to-1 and 0.9-to-1, respectively.

Fourth-quarter 2021 trends among Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) workers

AAPI workers saw a national unemployment rate of 4.1% in 2021Q4, above the rate for white workers but still below the rates for Black and Hispanic workers. The 2021Q4 AAPI rate was about 1 percentage point higher than the pre-pandemic (2020Q1) AAPI rate.

The highest unemployment rates for AAPI workers among those with a large enough population size for analysis were New Jersey (6.8%) and California (5.6%), while the lowest rates were found in Texas (2.8%) and Hawaii (4.0%). Only one of the five states for which data are available had AAPI unemployment rates less than or within 1 percentage point of their pre-pandemic rate.


The unemployment rate estimates in this report are based on the Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS) and the Current Population Survey (CPS) from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The overall state unemployment rate is taken directly from the LAUS. CPS six-month ratios are applied to LAUS data to calculate the rates by race and ethnicity. For each state subgroup, we calculate the unemployment rate using the past six months of CPS data. We then find the ratio of this subgroup rate to the state unemployment rate using the same period of CPS data. This gives us an estimate of how the subgroup compares with the state overall.

While this methodology allows us to calculate unemployment-rate estimates at the state level by race and ethnicity by quarter, it is less precise at the national level than simply using the CPS. Thus, the national-level estimates may differ from direct CPS estimates.

In many states, the sample sizes of particular subgroups are not large enough to create accurate estimates of their unemployment rates. We report data only for groups that had, on average, a sample size of at least 700 in the labor force for each six-month period. Data collection for the BLS surveys used to produce this report was affected by the pandemic, in some cases limiting sample sizes such that some states that usually meet sample size thresholds no longer did so.

UD offshore wind proposal has scary-high cost

From: Cape Gazette

A recent letter dismissed my analysis of a University of Delaware proposal to force Delaware electric customers to pay for a large offshore wind project. The writer correctly states my analysis concludes I found such a project would cost 3.5 to 5.7 times as much as other options that would have comparable environmental results. Left out was the conclusion the average annual cost to a residential electric customer could be as high as $400 to $545 a year over the 20- to 25-year life of the project.

The writer says, “These higher costs from a few scary examples may lead voters to toss the entire plan into a dumpster.” My so-called scary examples include price forecasts from the U.S. Energy Information Agency that many consider to be the gold standard of forecasts. EIA forecasts are levelized over the entire expected life of the projects. EIA forecasts solar power coming online in 2027 will produce power at $36.49/megawatt hour, onshore wind $40.23 and offshore wind $136.51. That is about the amount of power a typical residential customer uses in a month. 

I also quote consultants hired by the Maryland Public Service Commission that very recently approved Skipjack offshore wind projects to be built off our beaches, and from an ongoing utility commission case in Virginia. These sources can hardly be considered unreliable. 

In contrast, the UD study found there would be no price premium. What did they do differently? Maryland and Delaware both mandate the use of wind and solar electric generation in ever-increasing amounts. Public utilities must buy Renewable Energy Credits issued every time one megawatt hour is produced from these sources with the cost passed on to consumers. The RECs are sold separately and represent the premium cost of power.

Onshore wind and solar RECs are sold to utilities in competitive auctions, and are forecast to sell for about $10 to $15 each. Offshore wind RECs for the Skipjack project were set at fixed prices. While the price schedule was redacted, a starting price of $71.61 in 2012 dollars escalating automatically at 3% a year was published. Adjusting to current dollars, the RECs will start in 2026 at about $100 each and average about $137 over the 20-year project, or perhaps 10 times as much as onshore wind and solar RECs.

The UD forecast ignored the average lifetime cost and only used the first year cost. They also assumed offshore wind would replace carbon-based power, and there would be health and global-warming savings to offset the premium cost. However, both Maryland PSC consultants concluded offshore wind would simply replace onshore wind, and one concluded offshore wind would increase emissions because of longer transmission lines. The UD study also assumed offshore wind would be cheaper in the future, but a Virginia-based project facing higher materials costs just increased its cost estimate 25%, a wind turbine supplier just increased its prices 20%, and the EIA forecast is for 2027.

Finally, the UD study took federal tax credits into account as if it was free money. We pay for those tax credits in higher taxes, and onshore wind and solar also receive federal tax credits.

Sorry, UD, all your key assumptions are wrong, and your idea belongs in the dumpster.

David T. Stevenson
Director, Center for Energy & Environment
Caesar Rodney Institute

States Where People Are Paying the Most Taxes

From: Wall Street 24/7     

In a country as large as the United States, economic activity and tax collection vary considerably by state and region. A resource-rich state like Alaska depends heavily on taxes paid by global oil and gas companies based outside the state, while a major component of Florida’s tax revenue comes from tourism activity.

According to the Tax Foundation, the 84-year-old tax policy nonprofit, state and local taxes currently make up 11.2% of gross national product, the total value of goods produced by a country over the course of a year. This includes several public revenue sources like taxes on property, general sales, income and corporate income, licenses, and excise taxes on alcoholic beverages, tobacco, and other products. (Here are 19 big companies that paid almost nothing or nothing at all in taxes in 2021.)

To determine the states where Americans are paying the most taxes, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data from the report State and Local Tax Burdens, Calendar Year 2022 published by the Tax Foundation. States were ranked by their tax burden, from low to high. We also estimated income per capita by state from the tax burden share and tax amount paid.

The Tax Foundation defines tax burden as state and local taxes paid by a state’s residents divided by that state’s share of net national product. Unlike tax collections, which represent all taxes made to state and local governments, “tax burdens estimates allocate taxes to states that are economically affected by them” per the Tax Foundation. That is, the measure of tax burden attempts to measure the economic incidence, not the legal one.

State and local tax burdens have increased since 2020 to the highest level since 1978. According to the Tax Foundation, “pandemic-era economic changes caused taxable income, activities, and property values to rise faster than net national product.”

The 10 states with the highest state-local tax burdens in 2022 range from Maine and Delaware with a 12.4% tax burden to New York’s 15.9% tax burden. Residents of the largest U.S. state, California, bear the fifth largest state-local tax burden at 13.5%. (This is how much tax people pay in an average lifetime in every state.)

Four states with populations of under 1 million are among the 10 states with the lowest combined state and local effective tax burdens. Those 10 states have tax burdens ranging from Alaska’s 4.6% to Oklahoma’s 9%. Texas, the country’s second-largest state by population, has the sixth-lowest state and local effective tax burden at 8.6%. Two other states with large populations, Michigan and Tennessee, are also low-burden states.

Click here to view where Americans are paying the most taxes.

State Budget Writers Should Resist Temptation to Spend Surplus Funds

From: John Locke Foundation

With state revenue for the current fiscal year now projected to be $4.2 billion higher than originally predicted, state budget writers are sitting on a sizeable stack of funds. The revenue windfall, combined with another $2.4 billion in unappropriated funds and the $3.1 billion in the state’s Rainy Day fund no doubt creates temptation to aggressively finance new programs or even one-time initiatives. “We have the money, we shouldn’t just let it sit there!” is a common refrain coming from those always eager to increase government spending.

Legislators would be unwise, however, to give in to such temptation.

Signs of an economic slowdown, or full recession, are glaring. Runaway inflation, a stock market dive, a cooling of the overheated housing market, and consumer confidence dipping to levels not seen in a decade all point in this direction. Indeed, GDP decreased by 1.4% in the first quarter, so we may already be in recession territory.

Thankfully, North Carolina state government is far better positioned to withstand a recessionary period than it was leading up to the Great Recession in 2007-08. With little set aside in the Rainy Day Fund, growing debt obligations, and an unsustainable spending spree of 49% spending growth in the 8 years prior, state budget writers and then-Governor Bev Purdue were forced into a desperate situation when recession hit. Massive budget shortfalls had to be filled. That which wasn’t covered by federal ‘stimulus’ money was made up for by multi-billion dollar tax hikes imposed on North Carolina families when they could least afford it. And thousands of state employees were laid off, including teachers, while teachers went three straight years without a pay raise.

Fortunately, North Carolina can avoid such painful policies as long as they avoid the temptation to spend down their sizeable reserves. For context, we can look at the revenue impacts North Carolina experienced in the Great Recession.

For the beinnium of FY 2007-8 and 2008-9, total combined budgeted expenditures were $41.86 billion. Actual revenue, according to State Controller reports, over that two-year period came in at $38.92 billion, good for a $2.9 billion shortfall, with $2.1 billion of that in 08-09 alone.

Furthermore, even with a smaller biennial budget of $38.57 beginning with FY 2009-10, actual revenue still fell $750 million short during those two years

Indeed, state General Fund revenue never recovered to FY 2007-8 levels until five years later. In the intervening four years, revenue collections would have needed to be a combined $2.83 billion more just for each year to keep pace with the 07-08 revenue level. To accommodate even minor annual budget increases would have required billions more.

When a recession hits, revenue can nosedive quickly and dramatically. And, if the Great Recession is any indication, revenue can take several years just to get back up to pre-recession levels. To avoid massive layoffs and tax hikes, state budget writers would be wise avoid the temptation to spend down the surplus funds, and save them to plug in what may shape up to be sizeable budget shortfalls.

Death Spiral Demographics in Delaware

From: Caesar Rodney Institute

In 2011, the  Caesar Rodney Institute (CRI) published an analysis showing Delaware’s 2007-2009 migration trends. At that time, Delaware was gaining citizens from high-tax, low-growth Northeastern States (two-thirds of in-migration coming from New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts & Pennsylvania) while losing residents to low-tax, high-growth Southern States (two-thirds going to North Carolina, Florida, South Carolina, Kentucky, and Tennessee).

This report updates that analysis using US Census Bureau data for the years 2010-2020 and adds an overlay of age demographics to better interpret the data.

Retirees Moving in from the Northeast

Delaware continues to gain residents from the moribund and declining Northeast. But the reason is probably NOT due to economic opportunity, but for retirement purposes.

During the last decade, Delaware’s in-migration trends have become more concentrated, with over 76.2% of Delaware’s net in-migration coming from three states: Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York.

(Table Source: Author’s own calculations using data from 2010-2019 US Census Bureau.)

Why does CRI assume that these migrants are coming to retire in Delaware? Because during this same time period, Delaware has become the 4th most rapidly aging state in the nation as measured by the growth rate in the 65+ age cohort. Delaware now has the 5th largest percentage of the population over 65 years old in the country at 20%.

In other words, from 2010 to 2020, Delaware’s 65+ population grew to become 20% of the state’s population, ranking 5th highest in the nation, and this growth rate was the 4th highest in the country.

And, where do these new Delawareans live? During this decade, Sussex County’s population grew by 22.6% and Kent County’s by 13.1%, but New Castle County only grew by 4.3%, which is less than one-half of one percent per year.

Given this data, it is likely that most of this net in-migration are retirees. It is important to note that Delaware has significant tax incentives for retirees (both on income and real estate) along with relatively inexpensive real estate prices. Incentives matter.

The Young and Working Age Moving South and West

With retirees relocating from the expensive Northeast, where are Delawareans moving out-of-state going? The answer to this question is a bifurcated one. A decade ago, two-thirds of our out-migration was heading to the southern states. Today the answer is more complicated.

While just under 50% of our net out-migration is still heading to states like Florida, Texas, and Georgia, another ~20% is moving to the West Coast – Oregon, Washington, and California.

(Table Source: Author’s own calculations using data from 2010-2019 US Census Bureau.)

Could these out-migrants be the sign of a “brain drain” as our working-age population seeks jobs in the tech industry? The reason to ask this question is that Delaware’s working-age population (25 to 64) has been relatively flat over the last decade, growing at far less than 1% per year.

Furthermore, the under-25 population has declined by over 3% during this period. Delaware now has the 7th smallest youth population in the nation on a percentage basis – tied with Oregon.

(Table Source: Author’s own calculations using data from 2010-2020 US Census Bureau.)

The Full Picture Means No Economic Growth for Delaware

Irrespective of why young people are leaving Delaware while retirees are moving in, these are very bad demographic trends. The following chart shows 2010 versus 2020 age breakdown in Delaware.


Fundamentally, economic growth requires increases in worker productivity. With retirees moving in, youth moving out, and a flat working-age population, Delaware will not experience increases in productivity. Our economy is in a negative spiral.

For over a decade, CRI has presented policy options in education reform, tax reform, and regulatory reform that could have ameliorated these trends. CRI has been largely ignored.

On June 7th, Delaware state leaders from business, government, and related entities will be meeting in Dover. This meeting is a chance for these leaders to make a cool-headed appraisal of where Delaware is; where it is headed; and embrace different policy ideas to change direction and remake Delaware as the “Small Wonder.”

It happened under Governor du Pont in the 1980s. It is time again.

2022’s Best & Worst States for Military Retirees

From: WalletHub 

As military personnel retire, whether they faced active combat or not, they may find it difficult to readjust to civilian life. For example, the U.S. is still dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed more people than the Civil War did. Thankfully, things are starting to get closer to normality due to the distribution of vaccines, and states have been able to remove most restrictions.

Even without a pandemic, retirement from the military is always difficult, with many retirees facing major struggles including posttraumatic stress disorder, disability and homelessness. These veterans must also consider how state tax policies on military benefits vary, along with the relative friendliness of different job markets and other socioeconomic factors, when choosing a state in which to settle down.

In order to help ease the burden on our nation’s military community, WalletHub compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia based on their ability to provide a comfortable military retirement. Our analysis uses a data set of 29 key metrics, ranging from veterans per capita to number of VA health facilities to job opportunities for veterans.

Main Findings

Overall Rank  State Total Score  Economic Environment  Quality of Life  Health Care 
1 Virginia 60.70 7 5 12
2 Florida 59.32 10 4 24
3 Minnesota 59.14 17 37 2
4 Maryland 59.04 19 1 19
5 New Hampshire 58.90 8 8 10
6 Alaska 57.83 5 6 29
7 South Carolina 57.45 26 3 22
8 Maine 56.75 14 21 6
9 South Dakota 56.65 9 24 7
10 Connecticut 56.02 42 27 1
11 North Carolina 55.31 4 14 30
12 Alabama 54.06 2 16 44
13 Hawaii 53.97 23 22 8
14 Massachusetts 53.41 18 50 4
15 Utah 53.18 1 31 42
16 Arizona 52.98 13 9 43
17 Kansas 52.40 35 17 15
18 Wisconsin 52.21 32 28 9
19 North Dakota 52.08 12 30 32
20 West Virginia 51.10 6 39 36
21 Montana 50.77 24 12 34
22 Nebraska 50.76 39 19 13
23 Kentucky 50.65 16 38 27
24 Idaho 50.41 34 18 28
25 Pennsylvania 50.31 44 40 5
26 Delaware 50.23 47 11 14
27 Louisiana 50.06 21 25 37
28 Missouri 49.90 31 13 35
29 Oklahoma 49.80 30 7 47
30 Michigan 49.79 28 44 16
31 Texas 49.54 20 36 31
32 Arkansas 49.19 29 29 33
33 Wyoming 49.16 25 2 51
34 Indiana 49.10 11 41 39
35 New Jersey 48.74 46 15 21
36 Tennessee 48.12 3 47 45
37 Colorado 48.09 45 20 25
38 Georgia 48.04 15 23 48
39 New York 47.76 49 48 3
40 Ohio 47.69 41 42 11
41 Illinois 47.64 37 43 23
42 Iowa 47.06 36 34 38
43 Rhode Island 46.39 40 45 20
44 California 46.37 50 10 17
45 Mississippi 44.59 22 32 50
46 New Mexico 43.89 48 26 40
47 Washington 43.45 43 35 46
48 Oregon 41.87 27 51 26
49 District of Columbia 41.26 38 49 41
50 Nevada 41.21 33 46 49
51 Vermont 40.49 51 33 18

Note: With the exception of “Total Score,” all of the columns in the table above depict the relative rank of that state, where a rank of 1 represents the best conditions for that metric category.

Veterans per Capita
Most Veterans
  • 1. Alaska
  • 2. Montana
  • 3. Virginia
  • 4. Maine
  • 5. Wyoming
Veterans per Capita
Fewer Veterans
  • 47. California
  • 48. Utah
  • 49. District of Columbia
  • 50. New Jersey
  • 51. New York
Number of VA Health Facilities per Number of Veterans
Most Facilities
  • 1. New York
  • 2. California
  • 3. Wyoming
  • 4. Montana
  • 5. Texas
Number of VA Health Facilities per Number of Veterans
Fewest Facilities
  • 47. Washington
  • 48. South Carolina
  • 49. District of Columbia
  • 50. Delaware
  • 51. Rhode Island
Ask the Experts

Members of the armed forces deserve a comfortable retirement in exchange for their brave sacrifices. But it’s not easy to readjust to civilian life. For insight and advice on overcoming challenges faced by veteran retirees, we asked a panel of experts to share their thoughts on the following key questions:

  1. Should veterans have to pay taxes on retirement pay?
  2. What should veterans consider in choosing where to retire?
  3. What are the best economic opportunities for retired military personnel looking for a new career?
  4. How can the VA healthcare system be improved to better serve veterans and their families?
  5. How should the government help the military community?


In order to determine the best and worst states for military retirement, WalletHub compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across three key dimensions: 1) Economic Environment, 2) Quality of Life and 3) Health Care.

We evaluated those dimensions using 29 relevant metrics, which are listed below with their corresponding weights. Each metric was graded on a 100-point scale, with a score of 100 representing the most favorable conditions for military retirees. For metrics marked with an asterisk (*), we measured the “number of veterans” by the square root of the veteran population in order to avoid overcompensating for small differences among states, considering Veterans Administration (VA) facilities have not increased proportionally with the number of veterans.

We then determined each state and the District’s weighted average across all metrics to calculate its overall score and used the resulting scores to rank-order our sample.

Economic Environment – Total Points: 33.33

  • State Tax on Military Pension: Quadruple Weight (~6.35 Points)
  • Tax-Friendliness: Double Weight (~3.17 Points)
    Note: This metric is based on WalletHub’s “Tax Rates by State” report.
  • Share of Veteran-Owned Businesses: Full Weight (~1.59 Points)
  • Dollars in Defense Department Contracts per Capita: Full Weight (~1.59 Points)
  • Job Opportunities for Veterans: Triple Weight (~4.76 Points)
  • State Authorization for Veterans’ Preference in Private Hiring: Full Weight (~1.59 Points)
    Note: This binary metric considers the presence or absence of a state statute authorizing private employers to implement a veteran-employment preference without vulnerability to claims of discrimination.
  • Job Growth (2021 vs. 2020): Double Weight (~3.17 Points)
  • Military Bases & Installations per 100,000 Veterans: Full Weight (~1.59 Points)
  • Total VA Expenditure per Number of Veterans: Full Weight (~1.59 Points)
  • Presence of State Help for Returning Veterans: Full Weight (~1.59 Points)
    Note: This binary metric considers the presence or absence of veteran transition programs & commissions in a state.
  • Presence of Academic Credit for Military Service: Full Weight (~1.59 Points)
    Note: This binary metric considers the presence or absence of state legislation recognizing the varied skills and knowledge veterans acquire by counting it toward college credit.
  • Housing Affordability: Double Weight (~3.17 Points)
  • Cost-of-Living Index: Full Weight (~1.59 Points)

Quality of Life – Total Points: 33.33

  • Share of Veterans: Full Weight (~3.17 Points)
  • Share of Veterans Not Receiving SNAP: Full Weight (~3.17 Points)
  • Share of VA Benefits-Administration Facilities per Number of Veterans*: Double Weight (~6.35 Points)
  • Quality of Public University System: Full Weight (~3.17 Points)
    Note: This metric is based on WalletHub “College & University Rankings.”
  • Arts, Entertainment & Recreation Establishments per Capita: Half Weight (~1.59 Points)
  • Share of Population Aged 40 & Older: Full Weight (~3.17 Points)
  • Share of Homeless Veterans: Double Weight (~6.35 Points)
  • Idealness of Weather: Double Weight (~6.35 Points)
    Note: This metric is based on WalletHub’s “Cities with the Best & Worst Weather” ranking.

Health Care – Total Points: 33.33

  • Number of VA Health Facilities per Number of Veterans*: Full Weight (~3.03 Points)
  • Federal, State, Local & Private Hospitals per Capita: Full Weight (~3.03 Points)
  • Quality of VA Hospitals: Triple Weight (~9.09 Points)
    Note: This metric includes VA hospital performance star rating from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ “Strategic Analytics for Improvement and Learning” (SAIL) performance improvement tool.
  • Physicians per Capita: Full Weight (~3.03 Points)
  • Mental Health Counselors per Capita: Full Weight (~3.03 Points)
  • Veteran Suicide Rate: Full Weight (~3.03 Points)
  • Presence of Veteran-Treatment Courts: Full Weight (~3.03 Points)
    Note: This binary metric considers the presence or absence of veteran-treatment courts, programs that provide treatment and mentoring services to veterans with mental-health and substance-abuse problems in order to keep them out of the criminal justice system and help stabilize their lives.
  • Percentage of Residents 12+ Who Are Fully Vaccinated: Double Weight (~6.06 Points)

Sources: Data used to create this ranking were collected from the U.S. Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Military Officers Association of America, Military OneSource, USAspending.gov, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, National Conference of State Legislatures, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Council for Community and Economic Research, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Indeed and WalletHub research.

Commentary: Inspector General office will benefit citizens, state

From: Bay to Bay News

Delaware’s legislature has a golden opportunity to take a major step forward in addressing shortcomings in state agency management and a seemingly never-ending string of minor and major scandals involving agency operations. The bipartisan House Bill 405 would create a statewide Office of the Inspector General.

For the past three years, the Delaware Coalition for Open Government (DelCOG) — through contact with the Association of Inspectors General at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City, presentations to good-government groups across Delaware and commentaries in the Delaware news media — has been raising awareness of the need for a Delaware inspector general for independent and nonpartisan oversight of state agencies and state-funded entities.

DelCOG is pleased to know Democrats and Republicans in both houses of the Delaware General Assembly have come together to establish an Office of the Inspector General in HB 405.

The bipartisan effort to create this office for the benefit of all Delawareans is a testament to the need for the oversight it will provide and the investigative authority that will address not only waste, fraud and abuse but also mismanagement, misconduct, corruption and neglect of office.

The inspector general will be authorized to investigate possible illegal activities in state agencies, as well as to investigate mismanagement and related issues that undermine the effectiveness of agencies and limit their abilities to help Delawareans. An inspector general also can act in concert with the Delaware attorney general to promote ethical and legal behavior and stop agency mismanagement and abuse of office.

When state agencies fail in their missions or ignore their inherent responsibilities, the public has the right to report issues, demand solutions and expect corrective actions to be implemented — a role that the Office of the Inspector General would fulfill through its mission of transparency and accountability.

Government functions best when transparency, accountability and “in the public interest” are the guideposts that state agency officials follow in making decisions and carrying out policies for the safety, well-being and happiness of Delaware’s citizens, as well as helping to ensure proper use of taxpayer money.

When state agency officials ignore or dismiss these guideposts, mismanagement and neglect of office swiftly can lead not only to conflicting policies and actions but also to waste, fraud, abuse or worse. Consequently, DelCOG believes Delaware needs a dedicated, nonpartisan and independent inspector general for oversight and investigation, ultimately to enhance public trust in our government.

An Office of the Inspector General, through its investigations and efforts to improve management, can contribute to agencies addressing chronic problems that Delawareans observe or perceive, such as suspicious bids and state contracts; questionable property and real estate sales and leases, as well as grants and loans; discrimination in agencies; failure to address widespread water pollution and related issues; and risks to the health and safety of citizens, residents in the care of the state and employees.

By exercising authority to oversee and investigate state agencies and state-funded entities for compliance with their missions and state laws, an independent, nonpartisan Delaware inspector general and staff can, among other things:

    • Ensure that government agencies act in the public interest and conduct agency affairs with honesty and integrity.
    • Investigate and evaluate state agency deficiencies to address questionable practices and to deter or stop waste, fraud, abuse, misconduct, mismanagement and neglect of office.
    • Receive complaints by residents and state employee whistleblowers about state agency officials or agency actions or inactions, investigate them and repair public confidence in the integrity of state agencies and officials.
    • Recommend changes to state laws, policies and practices to help rectify systemic problems.
    • Save state taxpayer money. Inspectors general in other states and the federal government have a history of reducing waste and costly mismanagement errors well in excess of the cost to fund the office.

Because chronic and unresolved problems are counter to Delaware’s ethical and legal directives and warrant oversight, investigation and remediation, DelCOG encourages the General Assembly to pass this legislation establishing the Office of the Inspector General and giving the inspector general the tools and resources necessary to fulfill the oversight mission benefiting all Delawareans.

Finally, DelCOG calls on all concerned citizens and entities throughout the state to contact their state representatives and senators and urge them to pass HB 405 during this Assembly session and urge the governor to sign it! If you aren’t sure who your state legislators are, type in your address at this link to find their names and contact information: legis.delaware.gov/findmylegislator.

Keith Steck is president of the Delaware Coalition for Open Government.

How Patrick Mahomes’s Haircut Demonstrates the Ridiculousness of Occupational Licensing

From: Libertas Institute

For Patrick Mahomes, NFL quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs, looking good means playing good. To stay looking his best, the perennial Pro Bowler and Super Bowl-winning quarterback often flies in his personal barber to give him his haircut while on the road during the NFL’s grueling season.

What might not be known about these haircuts is that Patrick Mahomes’s barber, DeJuan Bonds, is likely breaking the law when he delivers haircuts out of his home state.

An example of this occurred when Mr. Bonds was flown to Miami by Mahomes to give him a haircut before Super Bowl LIV.

At this time, in Kansas, Mr. Bonds’s home state, to receive an occupational license one must have completed more educational requirements than in Florida. Kansas required 1,500 hours of training and $180 in fees, while Florida required only 1,200 training hours and $428 in fees. However, Florida did not recognize licensing reciprocity for barbers. This would’ve made it illegal for Mr. Bonds to cut Mahomes’s hair in Florida as he was unlicensed to do so.

This story is an obvious illustration of how arbitrary and silly occupational licenses are. Mr. Bonds is clearly a qualified barber, as shown by one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL trusting him with his hair, so why should he even possibly face criminal penalties for cutting hair in another state?

Thankfully, Mr. Bonds did not face any criminal consequences for his actions. Nobody in Mr. Bonds’s position should ever have to fear criminal penalties for simply serving their clientele by performing a job they are more than qualified to do.

Unfortunately, examples that demonstrate the need to abandon and reform occupational licensing regulations across the country are occurring every day. These examples bar real individuals, simply trying to provide for themselves and their families, from practicing occupations they are qualified to perform.