News Story

Budget Watchdog: Debt Burden In Michigan Now $25,300 Per Taxpayer

State has among the highest debt per-person in the nation

Much has been said recently about student college debt, now averaging nearly $30,000 per pupil nationally. But that’s not the only debt being carried around.

Total debt to taxpayers has also been skyrocketing in recent years.

The liabilities of state governments, largely driven by underfunded pension and retiree health care costs, have been accumulating rapidly. According to the State Data Lab produced by the Chicago-based Truth in Accounting, Michigan has the fifth highest amount of debt per person when considering student loans and taxpayer burden.

"Students should be told the truth about debt states are accumulating for them to pay, just as the amount of their college loans is disclosed to them," said Donna Rook, president of at Truth in Accounting.

Truth in Accounting calculates available Michigan assets at $22.7 billion (without restricted and capital assets), and liabilities (without capital liabilities) at $97.7 billion, meaning each taxpayer has a financial burden of $25,300. College graduates in Michigan have an average student debt of $28,840. The state's taxpayer financial burden was $15,800 per tax paying citizen in 2009.

When adding up liabilities, Truth in Accounting considers all assets (cash, investments, and money in fund accounts) and total bills ("liabilities disclosed in a state's financial report such as accounts payable, bonded indebtedness (bonds), and pension and Other Post-Employment Benefit (OPEB) obligations found in the state's and its retirement systems’ Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports (CAFRs)”). Note: The Supreme Court has ruled that OPEB obligations can be altered.

The states with the highest debt burden are Connecticut, New Jersey, Illinois, Hawaii and Michigan. There are seven states with a taxpayer surplus (where assets are greater than liabilities): Alaska, Wyoming, North Dakota, Utah, Nebraska, Tennessee and South Dakota.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.