The art of governing in these times, it has been said, is...

Salmagundi

July 20, 1993

The art of governing in these times, it has been said, is the art of getting more than you give. Mike Royko's proposed official motto for the city of Chicago, "Ubi Est Mea?" ("Where's Mine?") surely suits the nation better than "E Pluribus Unum" ("One from Many").

Marylanders will be pleased to know that the foraging parties we send to Washington to grub for dollars -- our senators and representatives -- are doing pretty well. A table released by the Tax Foundation, an anti-tax outfit in Washington, reports that we pay, on average, $4,890 per person in federal taxes, but we get back $6,589 in federal dollars spent in our states.

Of course most states -- 39 of the 50 -- take out of the federal till more than they put in. That's why we have a budget deficit. Still, Maryland's rate-of-return ratio is 15th in the nation, probably good enough to buy re-election for most of our congressional delegation.

New Mexico and Mississippi both get back $2 in federal spending for every dollar they pay in taxes. Top Ten states tend to have, on average, low personal incomes (Mississippi, West Virginia, Alabama) or lots of federal land and interstate highway (New Mexico, North Dakota, Maine, Montana, South Dakota, Idaho). Proximity to Washington gives Virginia many federal institutions and eighth place in the Pork Parade.

The Bottom Ten, subsidizing the rest of us, are chiefly Eastern states with plenty of high-income taxpayers. Each New Jerseyan pays out, on average, $1,561 more in taxes than per-capita federal spending in the state. Delaware, Connecticut, Illinois, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Michigan, Nevada, Wisconsin and New York round out the losers.

Maryland lives in both worlds. Its affluent taxpayers pay, per capita, 118 percent of the national average. But its many federal institutions -- Social Security, the National Institutes of Health, Fort Meade and all the others -- mean that per-capita federal spending here is 143 percent of the national average.

Call it the Free Ride State.

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