(The Center Square) — Taxpayers would owe $7,900 if Mississippi’s debts were paid in full at once, says a report scoring states on their financial conditions.
Truth in Accounting says the state owes $5.9 billion. It ranked the state No. 33 nationally gave a D grade for having a taxpayer burden between $5,000 and $20,000.
On the balance sheet, says Truth in Accounting, $17.2 billion in bills and $11.4 billion in assets and cash. Debt listings are $6 billion in bonds, $6.8 billion in unfunded pension, and $197.8 million in unfunded health care costs for state and local retirees.
Regionally, Mississippi is substantially worse than all but one of its neighbors. Arkansas taxpayers have a surplus of $500 for a B grade. Tennessee (fifth place, B grade, taxpayer surplus of $9,500) and Alabama (32nd, D grade, $7,000 individual taxpayer burden) also performed better. Louisiana was 43rd with a D grade and a taxpayer burden of $18,900.
One issue brought up by the report was the investment performance of the state’s defined benefit pension fund, known as the Public Employees’ Retirement System of Mississippi. After the plan’s investments earned a 32% rate of return in 2021, they lost 8.5% of their value in 2022.
The governing board for the system voted in May to increase the taxpayer contribution from 17.4% to 22.4% of payroll will be phased in over three years. Lawmakers must approve the increase, requiring larger contributions from municipalities and counties, forcing them to cut services or raise taxes.
A report released in May from the Joint Legislative Committee on Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review says the plan is expected to be only 48.6% fully funded by 2047, a significant drop from the optimistic 93.5% predicted by the 2021 projections. The plan’s funding ratio, defined as the share of future obligations covered by current assets, has been 61.3% for the last two years.
Nationally, the five worst states – called Sinkhole States by Truth in Accounting – were Hawaii ($23,100 individual taxpayer burden), Massachusetts ($26,700 individual taxpayer burden), Illinois ($41,600 individual taxpayer burden), Connecticut ($50,700 individual taxpayer burden) and New Jersey ($53,600 individual taxpayer burden).
The five best were Alaska ($80,000 taxpayer surplus), North Dakota ($47,400 taxpayer surplus), Wyoming ($24,600 taxpayer surplus), Utah ($12,700 taxpayer surplus) and Tennessee ($9,500 taxpayer surplus).