Kansas has the third-worst government of all 50 states, according to new rankings from U.S. News & World Report.
The news outlet ranked states from 1 to 50 in seven categories — health care, education, infrastructure, crime, opportunity, economy and government. Kansas had a better overall ranking than Missouri, scoring an overall rank of 28 when all factors were weighed, compared to Missouri’s 37. But on the category of government, Kansas ranked toward the bottom of the nation.
The ranking for government was based on financial stability, budget transparency, government digitalization and state integrity. Kansas, which has suffered from budget shortfalls for the last 2 1/2 years, was ranked 48th when all these factors were weighed. The only states with lower rankings in that category were Nevada and New Jersey.
Missouri, on the other hand, had the 14th-best government in the country, according to U.S. News & World Report.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Wichita Eagle
Missouri’s high ranking was based primarily on the state’s efforts to provide easy online access to government reports and data, a subcategory where Missouri ranked No. 1 in the nation while Kansas ranked dead last.
“The public is plugged in, and the question is whether states are, too,” said Mark Silva, assistant managing editor of U.S. News’ new Best States project. “Digitalization is the vehicle that gives the public access.”
This is the first year that U.S. News, which is well known for its college rankings, has ranked states. Silva said the goal is to provide an objective look at how states are performing in a wide variety of categories and to continue to track their progress from year to year to “provide an understanding of how things are improving.”
Massachusetts, which ranked in the top 20 in all categories, came away with the best overall ranking, while Louisiana, which scored near the bottom in every category, came away with an overall ranking of 50.
Kansas’ economy was ranked 43rd in the nation, while Missouri fared only slightly better in that category with a rank of 36.
Kansas House Minority Leader Jim Ward, a Wichita Democrat, said the state’s low rankings in the categories of government and economy are not surprising.
“Brownback economics are an utter failure. And it’s virtually unanimous in the evaluation,” Ward said, noting that Moody’s Investors Service gave the state a credit negative warning after Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s decision to veto a bill that would’ve rolled back his signature tax policies last week.
Brownback’s office blamed the state’s budget and economic challenges on global factors.
“Due to the stark decline in global oil and agriculture sectors, the rural economy of Kansas is struggling, and that is reflected in these rankings. This rural recession is impacting Kansas’ budgetary situation, and the Governor will continue working with legislative leadership to find solutions for the state’s budget,” said Brownback’s spokeswoman, Melika Willoughby, in an email.
Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens’ office did not respond to multiple phone calls and emails about the rankings.
Kansas surpassed Missouri on some other categories, ranking 14th in education and 15th in infrastructure. Missouri ranked 23rd in education and 36th in infrastructure.
“The quality of these services — schools, roads, and infrastructure — illustrate the fact that Governor Brownback has remained committed to core services while reducing the inefficiencies in state government,” Willoughby said.
Missouri also scored poorly on crime, ranking 44th in the nation in that category. Kansas was slightly higher, with a rank of 32. That ranking was based on both the crime and incarceration rates.
Missouri state Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, a St. Louis Democrat, said she was appalled by the state’s ranking, which she saw as evidence that incarceration “is not reducing crime … or yielding us any dividends when people re-enter society.”
“We need to go back to the drawing board and look at how we reduce crime by way of re-entry,” Nasheed said, contending that ex-offenders need more resources when they return to the community to ensure that they can find jobs and housing.
Crime & Corrections