The Fiscal Record of Roy Barnes in Context

Let’s take a look at the fiscal record of the presumptive Democratic nominee for Governor.  For this post, I will be using the Cato Institute’s Fiscal Policy Report Card on America’s Governors.  One thing to keep in mind is that letter grades are awarded on a bell curve based on the distribution of the numerical scores.

 Roy Barnes: 1998-2000
Overall Grade: “C”
Overall Score: 56
Ranking (Out of 50 Governors): 25th
Scored Higher than Notables:  Mike Foster (R-LA), George Ryan (R-IL) and 9 other Republican governors
Scored Lower than Notables: George W. Bush (R-TX), Jesse Ventura (I-MN), and 4 Democratic governors

Roy Barnes: 2000-2002 
Overall Grade: “B”
Overall Score: 64
Rank (Out of 50 Governors): 3rd
Scored Higher than Notables: Everyone except Bill Owens (R-CO) and Jeb Bush (R-FL)
Scored Lower than Notables: Bill Owens (R-CO) and Jeb Bush (R-FL)

To put Roy’s record into context, we will now take a look at Republican Governor Sonny Perdue’s fiscal record (For some reason, all Freshman Governors were ranked separately from incumbent Governors during Sonny’s first term):

Sonny Perdue: 2002-2004
Overall Grade: “D”
Overall Score: 57
Rank (Out of 25 Freshman Governors): 19th
Scored Higher than Notables (Freshmen): 1 Republican (Bob Riley-AL) and 4 Democrats
Scored Lower than Notables (Freshmen): Rod Blagojevich (D-IL), Jennifer Granholm (D-MI) and 5 other Democrats

Sonny Perdue: 2004-2006
Overall Grade: “C”
Rank (Out of 50 Governors): T-8th
Scored Higher than Notables: Mitt Romney (R-MA), Tim Pawlenty (R-MN) and all but 5 Republicans
Scored Lower than Notables: John Lynch (D-NH), Phil Bredesen (D-TN) and 5 Republicans

Sonny Perdue: 2006-2008
Overall Grade: “B”
Rank (Out of 50 Governors): T-8th
Scored Higher than Notables: Haley Barbour (R-MS), Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA)
Scored Lower than Notables: Charlie Crist (R-FL), and Joe Manchin (D-WV) and only 1 Democrat

So what do these numbers tell us?  For one, that Roy Barnes was not the fiscal train wreck that some portray him to be.  But it also tells us that, despite all the bad things we say about Perdue, neither was he.  When compared to their peers during the same timeframes, both performed surprising well.  I’ll admit that I did not expect to see Sonny ranked so high against other Republican governors out there.  Nor did I expect to see Roy Barnes ranked 3rd out of all governors.

So make of the numbers what you will.  But of Roy Barnes and Sonny Perdue, only one is up for election this year.  And he’s proven that he can govern in a fiscally responsible manner.

And I don’t want it to seem like I’m “defending” either of the two’s fiscal records. It’s all relative to their competition. And if the pool of competitors is poor, then mediocrity can seem sensational. It could be worse. We could live in Kah-lee-four-knee-ya.


  1. Goldwater Conservative says:

    I never put too much stock in the results that think tanks come up with. They are methodologically sloppy and only publish the results that agree with or lend support to their world view.

    Furthermore, the whole fitting of the grades to a bell curve makes this “analysis” all the more arbitrary. Not to mention this “analysis” hold all important economic variables and other political variables constant. I know the “researchers” at Cato would claim that fitting the data to a bell-curve accounts for that variation…but it doesn’t. Economic booms and busts are not distributed evenly across the country (they aren’t even distributed evenly across counties and cities within the same state).

    So sure, when Georgia is hit by a recession but to a lesser extent than say…California (which lost up to 60% of its real estate value from the market bottoming out coupled with other problems). Same applies to the 2002-2004 period…GA was hurt by the crash like California or North Carolina were. And Barnes got high marks for things that were not within his control?

    Shoddy research if I have ever seen it.

    • seenbetrdayz says:

      I’m beginning to think that everyone has a ‘world-view.’ It has become GC’s most frequent accusation.

      Me? I tend to close my eyes. The world ain’t all that pretty to look at, these days.

  2. fishtail says:

    Of the GOP candidates, the most experienced with state budget matters appears to be Eric Johnson. After Eric, I would say Karen Handel. Barnes is a master of the budget game, so for the sake of all GOP voters in Georgia either Johnson or Handel needs to be the nominee. Tough times demand it.

  3. HowardRoark says:

    Intersting information, Jace. Thanks for posting. This will make it easier to vote Barnes when the GOP nominates Oxendine.

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