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State-by-state pain index

How much pain does your state inflict upon you?

As states have suffered during the recession, the answer for most folks is "a whole lot," either through increased taxes to try to plug budget gaps or reduce services that can no longer be paid for because of declining revenues.

Rick Newman at U.S. News & World Report wasn't content with such a vague answer. Using data from the National Association of State Budget Officers, he combined said tax increases and spending cuts in each state since 2009 and came up with each location's pain index.

A state surprise at #1: It's no surprise that California, with its well-documented budget and tax troubles, is near the top.

And I just nodded my head in agreement when I saw some northeastern states -- Rhode Island, New Jersey and New York -- high among those causing their taxpayers a lot of pain.

But what was shocking was the state in the number one spot: Alaska.

Wow! This freewheeling, independent locale, famous for the oil money it gives back to its residents each year, has caused $1,265 worth of pain to Last Frontier residents over the last year.

Man clenching teeth

The injury came not from tax hikes; those actually dropped by $3 per person.

But Alaska's services were cut by $1,268 per resident.

Spending cuts win in the West: That's the trend for some other western states that rank high on the pain index.

Wyoming residents are dealing with $698 each in pain thanks to no new taxes, but that amount in spending cuts.

Utah raised taxes $28 per person and also cut spending by $409, producing a pain per person total of $437.

And Oklahoma did the same as the Beehive State, raising taxes $49 per person and cutting spending by $421, for a pain per person factor of $470.

Less pain in unexpected places: Where are residents feeling less pain? Eleven states made it into negative territory, number meaning the state's net burden on taxpayers is lower.

The big surprise here is Taxachusetts, excuse me, Massachusetts. The Bay State raised taxes $135 per person, but cut spending by $150 for a -$15 result.

Here in Texas, our lawmakers raised our taxes by $1 each but took $93 per person out of the spending column, giving the Lone Star State a -$92 pain factor.

But the big winners, at least on Newman's pain scale, are North Dakotans.

Those high plains residents each got a tax cut of $301 and spending reductions of $700 per person for a net $1,001 each in less pain from their state's budget actions.

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If you look at the full US News table, it is a relatively simplistic look at "pain" based on the net per person in each state of tax increases or decreases and spending cuts, which generally mean fewer services. So although Alaska cut taxes by a few dollars per person, it had the largest spending cuts; hence most pain for its residents.

In Texas, we got a $1/person tax hike, but the state gave back to each Lone Star Stater a $93 in funding for services (represented as negative cuts, ergo more spending) for services. As for the last graf, my very bad! That was partial text from a previous post that got cut and pasted when I used it as a format for the "related posts" info.


This article seems to make no sense mathematically. Alaska makes spending cuts and it is counted as pain. Texas makes spending cuts and it is counted as less pain. Based on the argument for Alaska, the number for Texas should be +$94 in pain. I may have missed something but I read it several times. There also seems to be something wrong with the last paragraph.

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