CONCORD — For the second year in a row, New Hampshire has been ranked the most economically free state in North America in an annual survey by a free-market enterprise think tank.
Three times in the past four years, New Hampshire has topped all U.S. states, Canadian provinces and states in Mexico in the report by the fiscally conservative Fraser Institute.
“The New Hampshire Advantage has made Granite Staters more economically free than roughly half a billion other North Americans, from Nunavut to Chiapas,” Josiah Bartlett Center President Andrew Cline said. “From the simple idea that people should be left as free as possible to pursue their economic dreams, we’ve created a continental marvel.”
The Josiah Bartlett Center is one of several state free-market groups that partnered with the Fraser Institute in preparing the report.
Gov. Chris Sununu celebrated the news.
“New Hampshire has led the nation in streamlining government regulation to allow job-creators the opportunity to grow and expand,” Sununu said in a statement.
“Our pro-jobs, pro-growth economic agenda is paying off for New Hampshire families, allowing them the freedom to spend their money as they see fit. The release of this study reaffirms that New Hampshire remains the best state in the nation to live, work, and raise a family — and we’re just getting started.”
Democratic Party spokeswoman Holly Shulman criticized the study’s conclusion.
“This Koch-funded study tells Granite Staters what we already know — that if you’re in the top 1% or are a large out-of-state corporation, Chris Sununu and Republican politicians give you free rein and the ability to write your own rules,” Shulman said.
”But if you are a hardworking Granite Stater, you’re left behind by Republican politicians who want to raise property taxes, who oppose a minimum wage, and who are pushing — in the midst of a pandemic — to repeal health care coverage that thousands of New Hampshire families rely on.”
New Hampshire scored 7.84 out of 10 in this year’s report, beating second-place Florida, which scored 7.73.
Virginia, Texas and Tennessee rounded out the top five. New York was 50th, and Vermont was 46th.
Massachusetts, at No. 18, was the second-best in New England, followed by Connecticut (25th), Maine (37th) and Rhode Island (43rd).
New Hampshire’s 2019 score of 7.93 was slightly higher than this year’s.
The report measures the extent to which the policies of governments were supportive of economic freedom and the ability of individuals to act in the economic sphere free of restrictions.
Cline said economic freedom is fundamental to prosperity.
The survey scored all governments on spending, taxes and regulations.
Policies such as minimum wage laws and the density of union membership in a state were viewed by the group as reducing economic freedom.
”High minimum wages restrict the ability of employees and employers to negotiate contracts to their liking. In particular, minimum wage legislation restricts the ability of low-skilled workers and new entrants to the workforce to negotiate for employment they might otherwise accept and, thus, restricts the economic freedom of these workers and the employers who might have hired them,” the report stated.
The Democrat-led Legislature passed bills raising the state’s minimum wage, but Sununu vetoed them.
From 2004 to 2018, the average score for U.S. states in the all-government index fell from 8.31 to 7.97.
“When governments allow markets to decide what’s produced, how it’s produced and how much is produced, citizens enjoy greater levels of economic freedom,” said Fred McMahon, the Dr. Michael A. Walker Research Chair in Economic Freedom at the Fraser Institute and co-author of this year’s report.