All things are relative, as the economic news keeps getting more bleak, and by that scale, Washington and Oregon are looking pretty good. In turn, this helps Gov. Chris Gregoire earn points for creating past economic strength and weakens Dino Rossi's case for switching parties in the governor's mansion. Move the Guvometer one notch Gregoire-ward, making the race, in our view, now a tossup.
Confirmation comes in a report by The Financial Times, which rates states on a misery index for "which U.S. states are suffering the most in the current economic and financial crisis." Washington is the 12th-best state, and Oregon is 14th-best. Texas is the most favored state, while Michigan and Florida bring up the rear.
Northwest and Western states generally fare the best, excepting California (47th-worst), Nevada (44th), and Arizona (45th), suffering from terrible housing problems. East of the Mississippi, only North Carolina and the District of Columbia make it into the group with the best growth rates. Utah is 5th-best, Alaska (awash in oil revenues) is 7th, Colorado (natural gas) is 15th, and Idaho is 23rd.
The rating is based on several factors. In annual personal income growth, the Washington and Oregon figures are 4.6 and 4.2 percent, respectively; annual employment growth is 0.6 and 0.2; gross state product annual growth is 1.9 and 1.7.
Gregoire also helped herself this week by tightening the belt on state spending further and saying she could use the state's $442 million rainy day fund to cut the projected deficit in half. She was able to make headlines by announcing cuts of $14 million, finding another $189 million in savings, and instituting a hiring freeze to save another $90 million. She probably has some other cuts she can announce, keeping herself on front pages as a budget hawk and putting Rossi on the defensive. The advantages of incumbency!