GoBanking Logo
GoBanking Logo

States With the Most and Least Amount of Debt

Joecho-16 / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Some Americans have student debt they’ll be paying off for decades. Others have low-paying jobs keeping them in a vicious cycle of credit card debt just to make ends meet. They all are struggling with debt — and it’s something entire states are struggling with, too.

To assess each state’s economic standing and debt burden, GOBankingRates looked at each state’s total liabilities, total assets and the debt ratio between the two. The study also determined each state’s total net position — total assets minus total liabilities — to provide the fullest picture possible. A debt ratio of more than 100 percent means a state owes more in liabilities than it has in assets. Here are the states that have the most and least amount of debt, starting with the states that have the least.

Jay Galvin / Wikimedia Commons

Alaska

  • Total liabilities: $10.75 billion
  • Total assets: $82.07 billion
  • Debt ratio: 13.3 percent

Alaska has the largest surplus of all states, with a ratio of liabilities to assets of only 13.3 percent. In absolute numbers, Alaska has the third-highest net position in the U.S. at roughly $72 billion.

Alaska is one of seven states with no income tax; however, it raises a lot of its money through taxes on oil and gas production and properties.

Nagel Photography / Shutterstock.com

South Dakota

  • Total liabilities: $1.14 billion
  • Total assets: $7.46 billion
  • Debt ratio: 14.9 percent

The Midwest puts up excellent numbers with South Dakota. Besides the second-best state debt ratio, the state’s roughly $1.14 billion in total liabilities is the lowest amount in the study. And, it’s one of the top three states for rich Americans.

Katherine Welles / Shutterstock.com

Nebraska

  • Total liabilities: $2.34 billion
  • Total assets: $14.93 billion
  • Debt ratio: 16.4 percent

With total assets at nearly $15 billion versus liabilities of just over $2 billion, Nebraska has the third-best state debt ratio in the U.S. However, its total net position works out to only about $12.74 billion, below the national median of $16.14 billion. In a separate study, Nebraska also ranked as one of the most economically diverse states.

photo.ua / Shutterstock.com

Tennessee

  • Total liabilities: $6.96 billion
  • Total assets: $42.12 billion
  • Debt ratio: 16.4 percent

One of the most tax-friendly states in the country, Tennessee has a debt ratio of 16.4 percent. The state’s minimal liabilities help contribute to the fifth-highest total net position across all states, at nearly $36 billion.

Png Studio Photography / Shutterstock.com

Idaho

  • Total liabilities: $2.61 billion
  • Total assets: $15.45 billion
  • Debt ratio: 17 percent

Idaho’s total net position falls below the national median, at $13.04 billion. However, its debt ratio is the fourth-lowest.

 

Jill Lang / Shutterstock.com

North Carolina

  • Total liabilities: $15.95 billion
  • Total assets: $69.71 billion
  • Debt ratio: 22.5 percent

With a debt ratio of less than 23 percent, North Carolina’s finances are in a very healthy position. In fact, it’s one of the most recession-proof states. The state’s total net position is more than $55 billion, the fourth-highest in the country behind Alaska.

f11photo / Shutterstock.com

Utah

  • Total liabilities: $7.06 billion
  • Total assets: $31.57 billion
  • Debt ratio: 22.6 percent

Utah is a Mountain state that leads most U.S. states with its low debt ratio. A separate GOBankingRates study found that Utah is one of the best states for job seekers.

Nagel Photography / Shutterstock.com

Wyoming

  • Total liabilities: $5.52 billion
  • Total assets: $24.78 billion
  • Debt ratio: 23.2 percent

Like Idaho, Wyoming falls within the Mountain Census division. And also like Idaho, Wyoming boasts a low state debt ratio. That could change in the future — Wyoming is heavily dependent on its mineral and energy industry, especially oil, which has been adversely impacted by cheaper oil prices in recent years.

val lawless / Shutterstock.com

Oklahoma

  • Total liabilities: $5.38 billion
  • Total assets: $23.479 billion
  • Debt ratio: 23.2 percent

Taxes are almost always the biggest and most visible source of state revenue. Compared to the rest of the country, Oklahoma’s combined state and local sales tax rate is the sixth-highest in the U.S., generating over $3.1 billion in revenue for fiscal year 2017.

f11photo / Shutterstock.com

Connecticut

  • Total liabilities: $10.32 billion
  • Total assets: $42.87 billion
  • Debt ratio: 24.1 percent

Connecticut’s finances have been disrupted by unfunded pension debt and health benefits for public employees. The state’s debt is jeopardizing major cities like the capital, Hartford, which is one of the cities nearing bankruptcy. However, the state appears to be on the upswing, with one of the lowest debt ratios of all the states.

Ace Diamond / Shutterstock.com

North Dakota

  • Total liabilities: $6.94 billion
  • Total assets: $27.51 billion
  • Debt ratio: 25.3 percent

One of the richest states in America, North Dakota has the third-lowest debt ratio in the Midwest region, behind Nebraska and South Dakota.

Nagel Photography / Shutterstock.com

Montana

  • Total liabilities: $3.75 billion
  • Total assets: $11.7 billion
  • Debt ratio: 31.6 percent

Not only do Montana’s assets exceed its liabilities, the state manages to accomplish this without having sales tax as a source of revenue. Property and income taxes fund the state, instead.

Zack Frank / Shutterstock.com

New Mexico

  • Total liabilities: $13.09 billion
  • Total assets: $39.82 billion
  • Debt ratio: 32 percent

Comparing debt by state, New Mexico’s debt ratio is toward the lower end of the list, while its total net position is on the higher end at $28 billion.

Henryk Sadura / Shutterstock.com

Iowa

  • Total liabilities: $8.37 billion
  • Total assets: $24.68 billion
  • Debt ratio: 33.7 percent

Total assets are roughly three times as large as total liabilities in Iowa. Iowa possesses a total net position of over $16 billion, which is on par with the national median.

Nagel Photography / Shutterstock.com

Missouri

  • Total liabilities: $14.7 billion
  • Total assets: $42.08 billion
  • Debt ratio: 33.8 percent

Missouri boasts a robust total net position of over $29 billion, which is the eighth-highest in the country.

Gabrielle Hovey / Shutterstock.com

South Carolina

  • Total liabilities: $10.88 billion
  • Total assets: $29.96 billion
  • Debt ratio: 35.7 percent

South Carolina’s debt ratio is better than the U.S. median, and its total net position is also higher at $19.76 billion.

Find Your State: The Biggest Source of Debt for Americans in Every State

Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com

Alabama

  • Total liabilities: $12.5 billion
  • Total assets: $33.62 billion
  • Debt ratio: 36.8 percent

One of the cheapest states in America, Alabama has managed to keep total state revenues ahead of total expenses. Individual and corporate taxes contribute a large chunk of the state’s total revenue, with nearly $5 billion collected in 2017.

Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com

Florida

  • Total liabilities: $56.58 billion
  • Total assets: $150.48 billion
  • Debt ratio: 37.3 percent

Florida’s state debt is kept in check by over $150 billion in total assets compared to total liabilities of less than $57 billion. Subtracting liabilities from assets leaves a total net position close to $96 billion, the second-highest amount in the study.

 

W. Scott McGill / Shutterstock.com

Arkansas

  • Total liabilities: $11.22 billion
  • Total assets: $25.55 billion
  • Debt ratio: 41.7 percent

Arkansas falls into the West South Central division alongside Texas and two other states. Arkansas has a lower debt ratio than Texas. But in absolute numbers of liabilities to assets, Arkansas has a net position of roughly $15.8 billion compared to almost $168 billion in Texas.

Nagel Photography / Shutterstock.com

Arizona

  • Total liabilities: $21.21 billion
  • Total assets: $46.96 billion
  • Debt ratio: 45.5 percent

In the 2017 fiscal year, Arizona collected $15.6 billion in taxes, with transaction privilege tax (TPT) making up the bulk of that amount at $9.1 billion.

Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com

Mississippi

  • Total liabilities: $11.77 billion
  • Total assets: $24.71 billion
  • Debt ratio: 46.4 percent

Mississippi is one of the states with the lowest tax bills, and it has managed to keep its state debt in check. Its total net position is $13.69 billion.

CrackerClips Stock Media / Shutterstock.com

Texas

  • Total liabilities: $136.87 billion
  • Total assets: $307.92 billion
  • Debt ratio: 47.7 percent

When looking at debt by state, Texas has the fifth-highest total liabilities in the country. However, the Lone Star State more than makes up for this with its nearly $308 billion in total assets — the highest of all states. When you calculate total net position, Texas’ assets exceed liabilities by almost $168 billion, the biggest surplus in the study.

TouchingPixel / Shutterstock.com

Wisconsin

  • Total liabilities: $22.64 billion
  • Total assets: $45.85 billion
  • Debt ratio: 48.7 percent

Wisconsin’s debt ratio is still lower than the 52.3 percent national median. In 2017, Wisconsin received $529.1 million more in tax revenues than the previous year.

Jeff Zehnder / Shutterstock.com

Kansas

  • Total liabilities: $8.89 billion
  • Total assets: $17.68 billion
  • Debt ratio: 49.8 percent

Total revenues from governmental activities increased year-over-year in Kansas, while total expenses decreased. Education costs form the bulk of expenditures: about $5.4 billion out of a total of $12.98 billion in expenses for 2017.

Zack Frank / Shutterstock.com

Virginia

  • Total liabilities: $21.3 billion
  • Total assets: $47.69 billion
  • Debt ratio: 51.6 percent

Virginia has a debt ratio higher than 50 percent, making it the first state on the list in which liabilities account for more than half of total assets. With a total net position of $23.09 billion, Virginia ranks 16th out of all 50 states.

Learn More: 5 Debts You Need to Tackle Before You Retire

Victoria Ditkovsky / Shutterstock.com

Oregon

  • Total liabilities: $19.3 billion
  • Total assets: $34.65 billion
  • Debt ratio: 53 percent

Oregon increased its total revenues from fiscal year 2016 to 2017, while decreasing expenditures. The biggest expenditure in 2017 was human services.

Jason Grindle / Shutterstock.com

Michigan

  • Total liabilities: $23.64 billion
  • Total assets: $42.73 billion
  • Debt ratio: 54.2 percent

Despite enduring the decline of the American auto industry, Michigan has kept its total revenues above total expenses. It should be noted, however, that the chief source of government revenue was not from taxes, but operating grants Michigan received from the federal government.

Start Today: 30 Ways to Dig Yourself Out of Debt

 

Rex Wholster / Shutterstock.com

Nevada

  • Total liabilities: $7.34 billion
  • Total assets: $13.38 billion
  • Debt ratio: 56.3 percent

Nevada falls into the bottom half of the list of states with the highest debt. However, the state has stayed in the black, boosting revenues for fiscal year 2017. 

f11photo / Shutterstock.com

Georgia

  • Total liabilities: $32.57 billion
  • Total assets: $55.19 billion
  • Debt ratio: 58 percent

Although it’s in the bottom half of the list, Georgia has shown promise when it comes to state debt and its financial situation. Most notably, Georgia’s growing economy fueled a $766.8 million increase in tax revenue from fiscal year 2016 to 2017.

photo.ua / Shutterstock.com

Indiana

  • Total liabilities: $17.91 billion
  • Total assets: $28.09 billion
  • Debt ratio: 60.3 percent

Indiana’s financial situation is mediocre at best. For fiscal year 2017, total assets minus liabilities came out to about $11.81 billion. Total revenues rose from $32.39 billion in 2016 to $33.17 billion in 2017. But total expenses also rose, from $32.47 billion in 2016 to $32.53 billion in 2017. 

Check Out: Best and Worst States to Get Out of Debt

Henryk Sadura / Shutterstock.com

West Virginia

  • Total liabilities: $12.2 billion
  • Total assets: $18.02 billion
  • Debt ratio: 64 percent

West Virginia’s debt ratio is the third-highest in the South Atlantic division. And its total net position — $7.04 billion — is far below the national median. Last year, West Virginia ranked as one of the states with the worst economies.

jiawangkun / Shutterstock.com

New Hampshire

  • Total liabilities: $4.67 billion
  • Total assets: $6.99 billion
  • Debt ratio: 64.5 percent

New Hampshire has the second-lowest debt ratio in the Census-designated New England division after Connecticut. However, the state’s 64.5 percent debt ratio is higher than the U.S. median.

Read More: The Best Ways to Pay Off Every Kind of Debt

Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com

Ohio

  • Total liabilities: $52.13 billion
  • Total assets: $77.72 billion
  • Debt ratio: 64.6 percent

Ohio has the second-highest total liabilities in the Midwest region, trailing Illinois’ huge amount of state debt. And, it’s one of the 13 states still suffering from the Great Recession.

Fortunately, Ohio also possesses the largest total net position — $29.71 billion — in that same region, just ahead of No. 36 Missouri.

Photo Image / Shutterstock.com

Minnesota

  • Total liabilities: $31.18 billion
  • Total assets: $39.87 billion
  • Debt ratio: 66.6 percent

Minnesota leads the West North Central division with a debt ratio of 66.6 percent, but it’s not the worst in the overall Midwest region. Though it maintained greater revenues to expenses, the latter rose significantly — about a $3 billion increase compared to the previous year — mainly due to growth in health and human services expenditures.

f11photo / Shutterstock.com

Colorado

  • Total liabilities: $29.7 billion
  • Total assets: $37.45 billion
  • Debt ratio: 69.3 percent

The good news for Colorado’s state debt is that total assets exceeded liabilities, for a total net position of $13.28 billion. Although it has one of the highest debt ratios, Colorado is still one of America’s richest states.

Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com

Maine

  • Total liabilities: $5.63 billion
  • Total assets: $7.04 billion
  • Debt ratio: 71.9 percent

Maine has the third-lowest debt ratio in New England, but it still ranks among the highest in the study overall. Because Maine is a relatively small state, its total net position is low, at $2.22 billion.

Jeffrey M. Frank / Shutterstock.com

Washington

  • Total liabilities: $73.74 billion
  • Total assets: $96.45 billion
  • Debt ratio: 75.5 percent

Washington is saddled with the nation’s seventh-highest total liabilities. With total assets of over $96 billion — the sixth-highest of all states — however, Washington’s net position is still in the black.

Victoria Lipov / Shutterstock.com

Vermont

  • Total liabilities: $4.06 billion
  • Total assets: $4.85 billion
  • Debt ratio: 76.6 percent

At the end of fiscal year 2017, Vermont’s state revenues exceeded expenditures by only $34.7 million.

 

 

Nagel Photography / Shutterstock.com

Delaware

  • Total liabilities: $9.96 billion
  • Total assets: $11.86 billion
  • Debt ratio: 79.3 percent

Delaware saw its total net position slide from $3.29 billion in 2016 to $2.93 billion in 2017. The main cause of this is the increase in long-term liabilities, namely the growth of pension debt and other post-employment benefits that the state is on the hook to pay.

 

Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com

Louisiana

  • Total liabilities: $26.29 billion
  • Total assets: $30.82 billion
  • Debt ratio: 80.8 percent

Although Louisiana ranks No. 11 among states with the most debt, its net position improved year-over-year (it was No. 10 last year), with assets exceeding liabilities by around $6.3 billion.

jiawangkun / Shutterstock.com

Pennsylvania

  • Total liabilities: $56.72 billion
  • Total assets: $67.13 billion
  • Debt ratio: 81.4 percent

Pennsylvania is one of the states that relies most on “sin taxes” — the taxes on tobacco, alcohol and gambling — to balance its budget, according to a Pew study. These taxes accounted for 7.3 percent of total taxes in 2015, which is significantly greater than the U.S. average of 2.3 percent for that year, the study found.

Zack Frank / Shutterstock.com

New York

  • Total liabilities: $139.54 billion
  • Total assets: $160.21 billion
  • Debt ratio: 83 percent

In our debt by state study, New York boasts the third-highest total assets in the U.S., behind Texas and California. On the flip side, New York’s total liabilities rank fourth highest.

W. Scott McGill / Shutterstock.com

Hawaii

  • Total liabilities: $22.86 billion
  • Total assets: $21.56 billion
  • Debt ratio: 95.6 percent

Hawaii’s total assets just barely exceed its total liabilities, and the state’s financial situation is declining. Hawaii’s net position decreased by $200.7 million — or 15.9 percent — from the previous year, according to the state financial report. 

edella / Shutterstock.com

Rhode Island

  • Total liabilities: $7.79 billion
  • Total assets: $7.22 billion
  • Debt ratio: 101.8 percent

Rhode Island is the first state on the list to have a debt ratio higher than 100 percent. Human services expenditures in particular are taking an increasing bite out of the state’s budget, primarily due to increased enrollment in the Medicaid program and a general growth in healthcare expenses for the Medicaid population.

 

Dave Newman / Shutterstock.com

Maryland

  • Total liabilities: $51.57 billion
  • Total assets: $44.5 billion
  • Debt ratio: 104.9 percent

Maryland suffers from the highest state debt ratio in the South Atlantic division. It’s also one of only seven states to report greater total liabilities than assets for the fiscal year 2017. At 36.6 percent, rising healthcare costs contributed the highest percentage of governmental expenses.

Andrew Zarivny / Shutterstock.com

California

  • Total liabilities: $287.79 billion
  • Total assets: $250.76 billion
  • Debt ratio: 107.9 percent

California state debt is at alarming levels, but it has improved from the previous year with a $9.1 billion rise in net position. The largest expense in the 2017 fiscal year was health and human services, which accounted for $135.1 billion in government spending.

Steven Frame / Shutterstock.com

Kentucky

  • Total liabilities: $55.56 billion
  • Total assets: $32.67 billion
  • Debt ratio: 139 percent

Kentucky’s total net position — total assets including deferred outflows of resources minus total liabilities including deferred inflows — is more than negative $15 billion.

Capture Light / Shutterstock.com

Massachusetts

  • Total liabilities: $95.47 billion
  • Total assets: $29.83 billion
  • Debt ratio: 247.3 percent

In Massachusetts, primary government liabilities exceed assets by over $57 billion. The biggest sources of state debt are pensions, school construction and transportation-related construction. For most Americans, their mortgage is their largest source of debt.

Henryk Sadura / Shutterstock.com

Illinois

  • Total liabilities: $214.78 billion
  • Total assets: $54.3 billion
  • Debt ratio: 268.9 percent

Illinois is one of the worst states for pensions. According to Moody’s, the state owes more than $250 billion in pension debt. The state’s “inability to manage its pension system in a sustainable and affordable way” has lowered its bond rating to just one notch above “junk” status. Illinois’ total net position is actually about $4 billion worse than New Jersey’s; New Jersey simply has a higher debt ratio.

K.L. Kohn / Shutterstock.com

New Jersey

  • Total liabilities: $199.02 billion
  • Total assets: $47.16 billion
  • Debt ratio: 279.9 percent

Taking the No. 1 spot of states with the highest debt is New Jersey. And its state debt is hard to fathom. Including deferred inflows and deferred outflows of resources, New Jersey’s total liabilities surpassed its assets by $132.6 billion. While New Jersey ran up more expenses than revenues, that’s not the principal cause of its dire financial straits. The main cause is, not surprisingly, increases in pension liabilities.

Click through to see how this woman paid off $30,000 in 10 months.

More on Debt

We make money easy. Get weekly email updates, including expert advice to help you Live Richer™

Gabrielle Olya contributed to the reporting for this article.

Methodology: To determine the states with the most and least amount of debt, GOBankingRates calculated the debt ratio of each state, which equals the 1) total liabilities and deferred inflows, divided by 2) total assets and deferred outflows. These two metrics were sourced from each state’s most recent Comprehensive Annual Financial Report. For all states except Alabama, this was fiscal year 2017. States were then ranked in order from lowest debt ratio to highest debt ratio.