Alaska

Summary 

On the basis of its fiscal solvency in five separate categories, Alaska ranks first among the US states and Puerto Rico for its fiscal health. Given Alaska’s reliance on oil revenues, the state has between 22.46 and 23.44 times the cash needed to cover short-term liabilities. Revenues exceed expenses by 55 percent, producing a surplus of $8,296 per capita. On a long-run basis, net assets represent 85 percent of total assets, and liabilities are 3 percent of total assets. Dependency on oil revenues shows that Alaska’s revenues and spending account for 43 percent and 28 percent of total resident income, respectively. This highlights the risk that, given a decline in oil prices, the state is spending beyond the capacity of residents to pay for current service levels.

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. (Alaska ranks 1st.)
  • Budget solvency measures whether a state can cover its fiscal year spending using current revenues. Did it run a shortfall during the year? (Alaska ranks 1st.)
  • 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? (Alaska ranks 2nd.)
  • 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? (Alaska ranks 50th.)
  • 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? (Alaska ranks 50th.)

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