Contact us
To speak with a scholar or learn more on this topic, visit our contact page.


On the basis of its fiscal solvency in five separate categories, Wisconsin ranks 29th among the US states and Puerto Rico for its fiscal health. Wisconsin has between 0.94 and 1.95 times the cash needed to cover short-term liabilities. Revenues exceed expenses by 6 percent, for a surplus of $374 per capita. On a long-run basis, Wisconsin has a negative net asset ratio of −0.06, indicating the use of debt financing. Total liabilities are 37 percent of total assets. Total debt is $13.65 billion. Unfunded pension liabilities are $34.88 billion on a guaranteed-to-be-paid basis, and other postemployment benefits (OPEB) are $892 million. These three liabilities are equal to 19 percent of total state personal income.

Key Terms

  • Cash solvency measures whether a state has enough cash to cover its short-term bills, which include accounts payable, vouchers, warrants, and short-term debt. (Wisconsin ranks 36th.)
  • Budget solvency measures whether a state can cover its fiscal year spending using current revenues. Did it run a shortfall during the year? (Wisconsin ranks 12th.)
  • Long-run solvency measures whether a state has a hedge against large long-term liabilities. Are enough assets available to cushion the state from potential shocks or long-term fiscal risks? (Wisconsin ranks 37th.)
  • Service-level solvency measures how high taxes, revenues, and spending are when compared to state personal income. Do states have enough “fiscal slack”? If spending commitments demand more revenues, are states in a good position to increase taxes without harming the economy? Is spending high or low relative to the tax base? (Wisconsin ranks 39th.)
  • Trust fund solvency measures how much debt a state has. How large are unfunded pension liabilities, OPEB liabilities, and state debt compared to the state personal income? (Wisconsin ranks 3rd.)

For a complete explanation of the methodology used to calculate Wisconsin's fiscal health rankings, download the full paper and the dataset at mercatus.org/statefiscalrankings-2016-edition.