An online publication has ranked North Dakota as the best-run state in the nation.
The annual 24/7 Wall St. study noted the state's Gross Domestic Product jumped 7.6 percent between 2010 and 2011, by far the largest increase in the nation. North Dakota also has the lowest unemployment rate, listed at 3.5 percent in the study.
"This study recognizes that North Dakota's sound fiscal policies are working," Gov. Jack Dalrymple said in a prepared statement. "We are in a strong position to provide tax relief, maintain a healthy reserve while also investing in our priorities."
The study determines how well states are run by looking at credit score, debt, taxes, exports and GDP growth by sectors, as well as quality of life components such as poverty, income, unemployment, high school graduation, crime and foreclosure rates.
This year, as a new component of the analysis, 24/7 Wall St. examined what each government opted to spend money on to try to determine if a state overspent limited resources, failed to devote funds to an urgent need of its citizens or spent a great deal of money but with poor results.
All of the best-run states had certain characteristics in common, including well-managed budgets, high-education levels and low unemployment. The study also reports that each of the top 10 states has a perfect or near-perfect credit rating. Wyoming, Nebraska, Utah and Iowa were the next top-scoring states in line after North Dakota.
"This study simply reinforces that North Dakota has great qualities to offer businesses and workers," said state commerce commissioner Al Anderson in a prepared statement. "State and local leaders have worked hard to build an environment that supports business growth and creates a good quality of life for our citizens. It's great to see this hard work being recognized by 24/7 Wall St."
Dustin Gawrylow, managing director of the North Dakota Watchdog Network, said such surveys often skew the perception of business climate by adding factors outside state government's control. Regulations and taxes are the main ways that the government affects business, he said.
"The rankings that they are doing basically just prove that North Dakota didn't screw up as far as putting in regulations that would have hindered the business development and the oil development," Gawrylow said.
He added that the Tax Foundation has ranked North Dakota 28th among states in favorable tax climate for businesses, which indicates there's room for improvement. The foundation recommends reforming the state's corporate and individual income tax policies, eliminating sales taxes on business-to-business transaction and changing the way that companies' experiences are used in calculating unemployment insurance.
Gawrylow suggested the state take advantage of its current cash flow to make the improvements.
"North Dakota is in a position where we can really improve our scores on these rankings and rebalance our taxes and regulatory code so there's no reason for businesses not to come here," he said.