A new analysis of financial reports gives Mississippi a “D” for the state’s fiscal health.
According to the report from Truth In Accounting, Mississippi’s finances were ranked 33rd among the 50 states. Based on money available, each taxpayer would have to pay $11,300 to cover the state’s bill.
A large part of that problem is due to retirement obligations for state workers.
“Mississippi’s elected officials have made repeated financial decisions that have left the state with a debt burden of $8.3 billion, according to the analysis. That burden equates to $11,300 for every state taxpayer. Mississippi’s financial problems stem mostly from unfunded retirement obligations that have accumulated over many years. Of the $16 billion in retirement benefits promised, the state has not funded $5.8 billion in pension and $784.8 million in retiree health care benefits,” the report notes.
The report shows:
- Mississippi has $5.7 billion available in assets to pay $14 billion worth of bills.
- The outcome is a $8.3 billion shortfall and a $11,300 Taxpayer Burden.
- Despite reporting all of its pension debt, the state continues to hide $596.4 million of its retiree health care debt.
- Mississippi’s reported net position is inflated by $1.4 billion, largely because the state defers recognizing losses incurred when the net pension liability increases.
A specific breakdown of assets and bills.
“Mississippi’s financial condition is not only alarming but also misleading as government officials have failed to disclose significant amounts of retirement debt on the state’s balance sheet,” the report continues. “Residents and taxpayers have been presented with an unreliable and inaccurate accounting of the state government’s finances.”
The taxpayer burden in Mississippi is down slightly from the past two years when it was $11,800 (2015) and $11,900 (2016). However, just nine years ago the burden was only $4,900 per resident.
Louisiana had the worst taxpayer burden among Mississippi’s neighbors at $15,500 per resident. Alabama was similar to Mississippi at $11,800 while Arkansas had a burden of $3,600 per resident.
Tennessee was in the best position, earning a B from Truth in Accounting, with a $2,500 taxpayer surplus. Nine years ago, Tennessee had a $600 taxpayer burden. But they have been steadily moving in the right direction and have been in the black for the past six years.
New Jersey had the greatest burden at more than $61,000 per resident. Alaska had the strongest surplus, $56,500 per resident.