I am currently on an overseas trip to the United Kingdom with my family. Britain has a series of rather aggressive newspapers that cover the political spectrum.
I try to read a few different ones each day. The big story here is the struggles of Prime Minister May to form and maintain a government after the weak performance of her Conservative Party in the recent general election.
I am really struck by the low regard held by the British conservative publications for President Trump. For instance, the prestigious Times of London, the premier U.K. conservative paper considers him – at best – an embarrassing buffoon who poses a risk to their country. Their conservative columnists are clearly concerned about the ability of Great Britain to rely on the U.S. as a steadfast ally on matters of defense and foreign policy.
The British press’ take on the recent revelation of Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a purported source tied to Russia is interesting to me. They perceive the meeting itself as designed to create the ability to blackmail Trump by putting his son at risk of negative exposure as someone willing to reach out to Russian interests to gather dirt on Hilary Clinton.
On a positive note, I was also impressed how well Idaho did in a national study on state fiscal soundness released last week.
The Mercatus Center at George Mason University released a study of the fiscal soundness of all 50 states based upon 13 comparative metrics for FY 2015. You can view a link to the full report here.
Idaho scored solidly with a ranking of ninth, putting it in the top fifth. The Mercatus Center’s report last year ranked Idaho 14th overall.
The states were ranked based upon five factors:
- Cash solvency. Does the state have sufficient cash resources to cover its short-term bills?
- Budget solvency. Does the state have sufficient current revenues to cover its budgeted expenses or is there a shortfall?
- Long-run solvency. Does the state have funds to meet its long term spending commitments?
- Service-level solvency. Does the state have the ability to boost spending if citizens demand more services?
- Trust fund solvency. How large are the state’s unfunded pension and healthcare liabilities?
The top five states, based on those criteria, were Florida, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming. Since the data was keyed to FY 2015, the position of those states heavily dependent on oil and gas revenue may have weakened a bit because of declining hydrocarbon prices.
But, Idaho is in the next set following the leaders with an overall rating of “Above Average”.
Idaho is ranked 10th in cash solvency, 6th in budget solvency, 5th in long-run solvency and 13th in trust fund solvency. Idaho is further back in terms of service-level solvency at 33rd. Idaho strengths are that it has substantial cash on hand, is running significant budget surpluses, has relatively little state debt and has modest unfunded pension and health care debt.
Idaho’s one weakness is that its tax revenues relative to state income are relatively high, meaning there is minimal slack to raise revenue if there is a demand for more state spending.
Overall, this is a positive report for the State of Idaho and current policymakers should take some credit.