We argue around here about the extent to which Wisconsin is a "tax hell" or has a bad business climate. Each side marshalls the facts that support its position. Our tax burden is extremely high, but our spending levels are closer to average. Part of that is that we tend not to employ users fees. On the other hand, the spending numbers have to be read in light of our low levels of federal aid and below average state income and so on.
William Ruger and Jason Sorens at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University have developed indices of what personal and economic freedom and compared all 50 states. Ihe economic index is, of course, value driven. They are looking for low taxes and spending, less regulation and a greater degree of local control over resources. They prefer user fees to taxes.
On this measure, Wisconsin does poorly. It is 42nd in fiscal policy, 35th in overall economic freedom and 37th in the overall freedom ranking.
Of course, folks with a different ideology would construct different indices and they would be fascinating to see. But the Mercatus work tends to support the traditional conservative critique of Wisconsin as a high tax and high regulation state.
The most free state in the union, according to Mercatus, is New Hampshire, all in keeping with Granite State license plates (Live Free of Die!").
The least free? New York.
H/T: Jonathan Adler
Cross posted at Marquette University Law School Faculty Blog.