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HomePoliticsReport gives North Dakota high marks for fiscal freedom, low marks in...

Report gives North Dakota high marks for fiscal freedom, low marks in education

(The Center Square) – Personal and economic freedoms have steadily improved in North Dakota over the past decade, but school choice is still lacking, according to a report.

North Dakota has steadily improved its score, rising from 20th to 11th in the nation for its overall freedoms since 2014, according to libertarian think tank The Cato Institute’s annual report Freedom in the 50 States Index.

The state’s highest marks came from the fiscal and regulatory freedom categories, which kept its ranking high despite a dip in its personal freedoms score over the years.

Good regulatory policy scores were a common theme for most Great Plains states. While North Dakota “lightly” regulates land use, it remained in the top 10 for its regulatory policies and had a “strong” limit on eminent domain abuse. Its right-to-work law and lack of a state-enforced minimum wage also worked in its favor.

Additionally, North Dakota is ranked number one for its health insurance freedom. The report also found “ample” freedom of practice for nurses and physician assistants.

Fiscally, North Dakota’s tax burden remains below the national average at 4.8% of adjusted income but up from its low of 2.8% in fiscal year 2014, the report found. Its state debt is above the national average but has improved over the last two years and its financial assets are above average, according to the report.

North Dakota moved the needle in the right direction on several factors within its criminal justice policies, the report found. The state has a low incarceration rate, passed a reform on civil asset forfeiture in 2019 and has low cigarette taxes. It also expanded gun rights with constitutional carry in 2017 and partially decriminalized marijuana in 2019. The state also legalized sports betting in 2021, though gambling freedom remains low, according to the report.

Where North Dakota performed poorly was in its educational freedom.

“North Dakota remains the very worst state in the country for educational freedom,” the report said. “Private schools and homeschools are both more harshly regulated than anywhere else, and the state has no private or public school choice despite moves in that direction in 2023.”

Gov. Doug Burgum vetoed a bill earlier this year that would have expanded school choice and appropriated $10 million to offset tuition costs for students who choose to go to private schools. Burgum said the bill didn’t go far enough for school choice, while advocates argued it would have been a step in the right direction.

States that received top ranks for freedom were New Hampshire, Florida, South Dakota, Nevada, and Arizona. Meanwhile, New York placed last, with Hawaii, California, New Jersey, and Oregon rounding out the bottom five.

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