How Kentucky stacks up on issues

Published 10:23 am Friday, October 27, 2017

By Will Collins

With the latest topic of struggle in our state being the pension crisis, I began to think of how we rank in comparison to other states in regards to various problems. Kentucky is a wonderful state to live in, but like all other states, we still have things to work on.

I often brag about our state and wouldn’t choose to live anywhere else, but if anyone says we are perfect, they are mistaken. No other state is perfect, but we should always strive to improve.

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I know a few people whose stories would make a great movie because of their struggles of living under certain laws in this state, but they still hang on to the beautiful and good things the Commonwealth has to offer.

First, I’d like to discuss state taxes. The tax burden is essentially the percentage of income taxed at the state and local level. When compared to all 50 states, Kentucky ranks as the 22nd worst in tax burden. We are pretty much in the middle, so I only use the term “worst” because we are on the negative side of half.

Border states Illinois and Ohio rank ninth and 13th while West Virginia and Indiana come in at 14 and 23.

The better border states are Missouri, Virginia and Tennessee coming in at 38, 40 and 48, respectively. Ranking close to center, as we are, is better than many others, but obviously this leaves us a lot of room for improvement.       

Our overall tax burden is around 8.71 percent. Compare that to Illinois at 10 percent and Tennessee at 6.45 percent and you see we fall in the middle again with border states.

The worst state, not surprisingly, is New York at 12.94 percent and Delaware being the best at 5.59 percent. Florida, a popular retirement state is at 6.59 percent, ranking 45th in the nation.

Another picture is painted when comparing red and blue states. Currently, red (Republican) states have a lower total tax burden than those considered blue (Democratic)states. Red states had an average rank of 30.27 in the overall tax burden list while blue states came in averaging 18.30.

When compared to other states in median household income, Kentucky comes in as the fifth-poorest state in the union. This number fluctuates from year to year, but we often are in the bottom 10 and sometimes bottom five. I see no better reason to offset this by lowering the tax burden we have. If we make less, how about keeping more of it and see how that works for us?

On the issue of drug abuse, we come in ranked 24th in the U.S., right in the middle again. Red states have a higher drug problem than blue states, according to a Wallet Hub study.

When you read through these numbers, I assure you I’m not downing our wonderful state, just pointing out facts. Facts show we have room to grow.

Since we pay so much in taxes, you would think we could use the money to improve in all other areas,  but it doesn’t seem to happen that way.

I like this quote from Arthur Laffer, “Government spending is taxation. When you look at this, I’ve never heard of a poor person spending himself into prosperity; let alone I’ve never heard of a poor person taxing himself into prosperity.” It makes a lot of sense actually.

Political enthusiast Will Collins is a lifelong resident of Kentucky and has called Winchester home for the past 20 years. He can be reached at