(The Center Square) – Nebraska’s residents have some of the country’s more limited rights, ranking 38th in the Cato Institute’s “Freedom in the 50 States 2023” report.
The libertarian think tank ranked the 50 states based on how their policies impact economic and social freedoms.
“The 2023 edition updates and expands on the six previous editions of Freedom in the 50 States,” the report’s introduction said. “It examines state and local government intervention across a wide range of policy categories – from taxation to debt, from eminent domain laws to occupational licensing, and from drug policy to educational choice.”
Nebraska had a -0.02 score in the rankings. While it received favorable marks for limited government regulation in business, its fiscal policy ranked near the bottom.
“Nebraska is a state of extremes within our economic freedom dimension,” the report said. “It is the fourth-best state on regulatory policy but is 45th on fiscal policy. Like other Great Plains states, Nebraska has usually had very good regulatory policy. But Cornhuskers have long suffered from poor fiscal policy, which has only gotten worse in the past decade or so. Nebraska went from 48th on personal freedom in 2000, to 20th in 2016 to 40th in 2022.”
Arguably, the state’s biggest issue, according to the rankings, is local taxation. It ranked 49th of 50 states in local taxation.
“Nebraska is fiscally decentralized but highly taxed, with lower-than-average state tax revenues (about 6.1 percent of adjusted personal income, up from 4.9 percent in FY 2010) and much higher-than-average local tax revenues (4.9 percent of income),” the report said. “Debt is lower than average, but so are assets. Public employment is above average at 12.4 percent, whereas government GDP share is quite a bit higher than average at 12.1 percent. On the plus side, that public employment figure is the lowest in our time series”.
However, on the regulatory side, the state ranked No. 1 for health insurance freedom, given its lack of government mandates, and No. 2 in lawsuit freedom.
“Health insurance freedom is tied for best in the nation, with few mandated benefits outside the PPACA essential benefits and with a light touch on managed care,” the report said.
Being a right-to-work state made it an above-average state for labor freedom despite its $12 hourly minimum wage, the report said.
Meanwhile, the report said that when it comes to criminal justice, Nebraska is about average.
“Nebraska is only middling on criminal justice policy,” the report said. “Incarceration rates are now average, as they have increased over time, unlike in many other states. Drug arrest rates have been high, but they have come down steadily (with a one-year blip up in 2019). Victimless crime arrests have been moving in the right direction and are now near countrywide averages.”
One specific crime policy the report takes issue with is marijuana. Neither recreational nor medical marijuana is legal in Nebraska, hurting its overall score.
The report said that these were the five freest states:
1. New Hampshire
3. South Dakota
It also said that these are the five least free states:
50. New York
47. New Jersey