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Think tank: Ducey to thank for Arizona’s 5th ranking in overall freedom

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(The Center Square)– The Cato Institute ranked Arizona fifth in the United States in their latest report analyzing “personal and economic freedoms.”

The libertarian organization credited the state’s high rank to former Republican Gov. Doug Ducey’s leadership when it came to education and the economy. Arizona ranked eighth in “freedom growth” between 2020 and 2022 and third between 2000 and 2022.

“Arizona is now just behind Nevada. It has seen the fourth most improvement since 2010. Its educational freedom leadership has now put it as high as second place on personal freedom for the first time ever,” the report states. “Former Governor Doug Ducey was a major leader in educational freedom and regulatory reform. A small COVID-19 pandemic slide in fiscal policy has not negated the massive gains the state has made in that area over the past two decades.”

In addition, they said a decrease in “government consumption” is the reason why Arizona continues to have more freedom by their standards.

“Arizona has made massive gains on fiscal policy and educational freedom. Government consumption declined from 11.6 percent of the economy in 2013 to 8.7 percent in 2022, with the biggest single-year drop coming in 2020. Government debt and employment also fell substantially during those years, whereas tax burden held steady,” the report states.

In terms of “educational freedom,” the state made waves with the first-of-its-kind universal Empowerment Scholarship Account program created last year. The program has been a point of contention between Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs, Republican Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne, and the narrow Republican majority in the state legislature.

When broken down by category, Arizona ranked second in personal freedom, just behind Nevada. The institute looks at personal freedom in terms of civil liberties, education, gun rights, as well as drug and alcohol freedom, among other issues. Texas had the lowest overall personal freedom score, along with Wyoming and Idaho.

The Grand Canyon State ranked tenth in overall fiscal policy, 21st in overall regulatory policy, and 11th in overall economic freedom.

Overall, New Hampshire placed first, which is ahead of Florida, South Dakota, and Nevada.

However, the institute did say there are a few things holding the state back from having an even higher ranking.

“Unfortunately, its minimum wage has risen to internationally extreme heights, given average wages, and its restrictions on smoking and vaping have gone far. Arizona has seen ballot initiatives both give and take away freedoms,” the report states.

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