EconomyHot Sheet

Taxpayer ROI: Where Colorado ranks

Author: Mark Harden - April 3, 2018 - Updated: April 2, 2018

spending ballot measures(Photo by eyegelb, iStock)

Taxes? Not much fun. But as tax deadline day looms, are we Coloradans getting as much bang for each buck of our taxes as other states?

Turns out that we are — or at least so says a new ranking of “taxpayer return on investment” from WalletHub.

It’s clear taxes are a pain for most of us even if tax dollars pay for services we need or want, from schools to roads. Fifty-five percent of American adults polled by WalletHub believe they pay too much in taxes, and a full nine out of 10 say government doesn’t use tax revenue wisely.

Colorado comes in at No. 14 among the states for taxes paid per capita, with No. 1 — Alaska — being the lowest.

But when the financial-information site compares what residents of each state are taxed to the quality of services available from state and local governments along with economic vitality, pollution and other factors, Colorado ranks fourth among the states, behind only New Hampshire, Florida and South Dakota.

WalletHub says it used 25 metrics grouped in five categories — education, health, safety, economy and infrastrucure/pollution — to rank the states on taxpayer ROI. Colorado’s best rankings are No. 3 for economy and No. 9 for health.

WalletHub measures economy using such metrics as median household income, unemployment and underemployment rates, the share of residents living below poverty, and the annual job growth rate.

The health ranking takes into account hospital beds and infant-mortality rates, quality of public hospitals and health care, average health-insurance premiums and average life expectancy.

Colorado’s lowest scores in the WalletHub comparison are for safety (26th) and education (24th).

So do residents of red states get a better or worse payoff for their tax dollars than people in blue states?

It turns out that red states rule (“red states” being defined as those that voted Republican in the 2016 presidential election), scoring an average of 20.6 to the blue states’ mean of 32.85 (the lower, the better from a tax ROI standpoint).

Government services tend to be less robust in red states than in blue ones, but taxes are generally lower, too.

Mark Harden

Mark Harden

Mark Harden is managing editor of Colorado Politics. He previously was news director at the Denver Business Journal; city editor, online news editor, state editor, national editor and popular music critic at The Denver Post; and an editor and reporter at newspapers in the Seattle area and San Francisco.