TIA debt burden 2021

A map of each state's debt burden or debt surplus from Truth In Accounting

(The Center Square) – A financial watchdog ranked Minnesota 11th in the nation and stamped a “B” grade on the state for its current fiscal health.

The Financial State of the States report from the nonprofit government watchdog Truth In Accounting (TIA) found that Minnesota is only one of 11 states with enough money to pay its bills, leaving every Minnesotan with a taxpayer surplus of $200.

That’s based on the state’s 2020 audited Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, the latest available data.

Fifteen state governments received a near-failing “D” grade for a taxpayer burden between $5,000 and $20,000, determined by calculating the state’s debt divided by the number of taxpayers.

Minnesota had $28.6 billion available to pay $28.3 billion worth of bills – leaving a $341.4 million surplus, which breaks down to $200 per taxpayer.

At the end of the fiscal year 2020, 39 states did not have enough money to pay all of their bills. The total debt of the 50 states amounted to $1.5 trillion.

“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.”

The top three indebted states were:

  • Connecticut: per taxpayer burden of $62,500
  • New Jersey: per taxpayer burden of $58,300
  • Illinois: per taxpayer burden of $57,000

The average taxpayer burden across the 50 states was $9,300 for fiscal year 2020, $2,000 worse than the prior year.

The most fiscally healthy states were:

  • Alaska: per taxpayer surplus of $55,100
  • North Dakota: per taxpayer surplus of $39,200
  • Wyoming: per taxpayer surplus of $19,500

Nationwide, most state debt stems from unfunded retirement benefit promises, such as pension and retiree health care liabilities. For 2020, pension debt totaled $926.3 billion, and other post-employment benefits (OPEB), mainly retiree health care, totaled $638.7 billion.

Staff Reporter

Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on Forbes.com and FEE.org. Previously, he worked as a financial analyst at Pepsi.