A study released by the Cato Institute found that Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam is the least fiscally conservative Republican governor in America. That shouldn't come as much of a shock to Tennesseans who have watched in horror as Haslam has supported tax hikes, while fumbling away opportunities to cut spending.
Cato's biennial "Fiscal Policy Report Card on America's Governors," released on Tuesday, gave Gov. Haslam a "D" for his fiscal policies -- ranking him as the worst Republican governor in America on tax and spending issues.
The report card gave Haslam low grades for supporting an increase in the state's hospital tax from 3.5 to 4.5 percent of hospital net income. Haslam also received poor marks for his efforts to increase taxes on Internet sales. "State general fund spending rose about 14 percent during Haslam's first year in office, which was a key factor in the governor's low grade," according to the report.
The libertarian think tank applauded Haslam's role in phasing out the state's burdensome death tax. A small reduction to the state's sales tax on groceries, which Haslam signed off on, was also pointed out as a positive step -- even though the pathetic excuse for a tax cut will save the average Tennessean only $3.40 a year.
The report considers data from every state and objectively awards a grade based on several spending, revenue and tax variables. Under the formula, Haslam's policies yielded a numeric score of 43.
In comparison, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley earned a "B" and ranked as the eighth-best governor in America based on his commitment to reducing state spending. Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal and Gov. Beverly Perdue of North Carolina, both ranked mid-pack, earning "C" grades.
Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas ranked as the most fiscally conservative governor in America in the study. Brownback was the architect of a "fairer, flatter, and simpler" tax system, which substantially cut state income taxes.
Haslam could learn from Brownback's commitment to fiscal responsibility.