POLITICS
07/15/2014 05:11 pm ET Updated Jul 15, 2014

Broke States Just Might Have Political Corruption To Blame

John Gress via Getty Images

A legacy of political corruption is costing a number of U.S. states much more than their reputation, according to a new study.

The study, authored by Cheol Liu of the City University of Hong Kong and John Mikesell of Indiana University and published in the May/June 2014 issue of Public Administration Review, links political corruption to excessive state spending in the nation's 10 most corrupt states. The result is what essentially amounts to an annual "corruption tax" estimated at $1,308 per person, based on the researchers' analysis of about 25,000 corruption-related convictions between the years 1976 and 2008.

If corruption in the nation's 10 most corrupt states -- identified and ranked in order as Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Alabama, Alaska, South Dakota, Kentucky and Florida -- had been reduced to just an "average" level between 1997 and 2008, spending in those states would have been reduced a total of 5.2 percent of their existing expenditures, according to the study.

On the flip side, the study ranked Oregon, Washington, Minnesota, Nebraska, Iowa, Vermont, Utah, New Hampshire, Colorado and Kansas as the least corrupt states.

The study also reports that states with more political corruption spend differently than states where it is less common. High-corruption states specifically are said to spend more money on construction, capital and highway projects -- which have a history of being prone to bribes and kickbacks -- as well as on law enforcement and prisons. More corrupt states also spend less money on education, health care and hospitals, according to an Indiana University news release.

In comparing highly-corrupt Illinois with averagely-corrupt Indiana, the Northwest Indiana Times notes that Illinois spent $932.47 more per person overall than its neighboring state in 2013, but Indiana spent twice as much from its general fund on education, and less on capital projects.

Of the study's top 10 most corrupt states, five also ranked among the top 10 most underfunded public pension systems in the nation, according to Bloomberg.

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