Texas's Abbott Rated Best Governor on Economy, COVID Response: Report

Texas's Abbott Rated Best Governor on Economy, COVID Response: Report
Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R), with US Senator Ted Cruz (L), attends a briefing for President Donald Trump in Orange, Texas, on August 29, 2020. (ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP via Getty Images)
Emel Akan

WASHINGTON—The governors of Texas, Georgia, and South Dakota rank highest in the nation based on economic policy performance and management of the COVID-19 health crisis, according to a new study.

A scorecard by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative, nonprofit organization, evaluated the 50 governors using various performance indicators, including tax and spending policy, use of federal funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, education spending, welfare policy, and labor regulations.

Greg Abbott of Texas topped the list “due to his commitment to fiscal conservatism and free market policies,” the report by ALEC stated. Brian Kemp of Georgia and Kristi Noem of South Dakota ranked second and third, respectively. All three are Republican.

To judge overall performance, the governors were assigned a grade of 1 to 5 stars, with top performers getting 4 or 5 stars and the worst receiving 1 or 2.

The worst governors on the scorecard were Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island, Mike Dunleavy of Alaska, and Phil Murphy of New Jersey. Raimondo and Murphy are Democrats, while Dunleavy is a Republican.

Besides an overall ranking, the study also ranked governors based on their state’s debt and spending levels, pandemic preparedness, and overall economic performance.

“We analyze things from a free-market basis,” Jonathan Williams, ALEC’s chief economist and co-author of the scorecard, told The Epoch Times.

Governors who are “more responsive to taxpayers, keep spending and taxing at competitive levels, and keep their economies healthy are going to be better ranked according to our analysis,” he said.

The study gives “legislators and taxpayers across the country a snapshot of how well their governor is fulfilling their duty,” Williams said.

Other authors of the study are Reagan economist Arthur Laffer, budget and tax policy expert Donna Arduin, and economist Stephen Moore.

Source: ALEC
Source: ALEC

Democratic Govs. Andrew Cuomo of New York and Gavin Newsom of California both received 2 stars from the economists, ranking 39 and 40, respectively.

While New York City is a global center of commerce and finance, the state’s aggregate economy performs the third-worst of any state, according to the report.

“The situation in upstate New York is so dire, GDP and employment growth figures for the entire state are negative despite New York City’s wealth,” and this is because of “big government policies,” the report said.

The only Democrat who made it to the top 10 was Colorado’s Jared Polis.

Since taking office in 2019, Polis has embraced pro-growth policies. The state has experienced strong growth in recent years, and Polis’s commitment to reducing the state’s personal income tax would support the growth further, according to the report.

Williams said the study was based on objective, nonpartisan metrics.

“We analyze things in a nonpartisan but free-market way when it comes to policy. And the results speak for themselves, with Republicans and Democrats being mixed in at the top and bottom of the rankings,” he said.

Moore, the co-author of the report, said good governors often make good presidents because of their experiences.

“One of the reasons this governor's report is important is, governors are oftentimes the next in line to be president,” he said in an interview with ALEC.

“You're going to see a lot of these people, like Polis, a Democrat, who probably has his eyes on the White House. And he's been very good. And then you've got people like [Florida's Ron] DeSantis. He has done a fantastic job. I hear a lot of people talking about Kristi Noem, kind of a superstar in the making,” he said.

As the third-best governor, Noem made headlines this year for her refusal to shut down South Dakota’s economy.

She rose to the occasion because of her “practice of fiscal discipline, her commitment to independent decision-making, and skepticism of a federal bailout,” the report stated.

Other notable governors who protected their economies from unemployment surges due to the pandemic include Pete Ricketts of Nebraska, Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma, Gary Herbert of Utah, and Mark Gordon of Wyoming. All are Republican.

In stark contrast, governors who failed to protect their economies include Newsom, Murphy, Cuomo, Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, and Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania. All but Baker are Democrats.

The report also questioned the efficacy of mandatory business closures and stay-at-home orders.

“A clear trend emerging throughout this ordeal is that regions with relatively strict and prolonged lockdown orders saw insignificant changes in the rate of deaths in their state or country,” the report said.

"In several states, such as New York and New Jersey, death rates with respect to population were well above average despite strict lockdown policies.”

Emel Akan is a senior White House correspondent for The Epoch Times, where she covers the Biden administration. Prior to this role, she covered the economic policies of the Trump administration. Previously, she worked in the financial sector as an investment banker at JPMorgan. She graduated with a master’s degree in business administration from Georgetown University.