The headline numbers for how much federal spending each state gets per federal tax dollar it sends to Washington come from the Tax Foundation and are almost a decade out of date. However, using IRS numbers for tax receipts per state, and QuickFacts’ numbers for federal spending per state and county, we can construct the numbers by state as of 2009. The picture is similar to the old numbers – the North subsidizes the South, as one would expect as the North is richer and also has a higher cost of living.
What I didn’t expect is that Rhode Island would get only 77 cents in federal spending per dollar of taxation. More precisely, in 2009 it paid $10.9 billion in taxes (more than richer states of comparable size, such as New Hampshire) and got $11.4 billion in spending; but the country as a whole ran a large deficit, and so if we divide 11.4/10.9 by the ratio of federal spending that actually came from taxes, we get 0.77. This was going on while the state ranked near the top in unemployment, and for a while, early in the recession, led the nation. The other high-unemployment states got much more than 77 cents on the dollar: California got 92 (up from $0.79 in 2004), Nevada $1.06 (up from $0.73), and Michigan $1.20 (up from $0.85); Florida, which was also hit hard, got $1.21, up from $1.02.
I have no explanation for this. Connecticut and Massachusetts, both richer than Rhode Island, do not get this little. I thought it might be because Rhode Island is a large daytime job gainer – it is one of the top states in percentage of workers who commute in from other states because of all the Providence suburbs in Massachusetts – but North Dakota is another such state because of Fargo’s Minnesota suburbs, and it got $1.60 in spending per dollar of revenue.
Update: Quickfacts decided to stop putting out the federal spending statistics. Here are numbers from 2010, which seem to be in a permalinked format. In 2010, Rhode Island got $11.8 billion in spending and paid $10.5 billion in taxes, which works out to 81 cents on the dollar, again after adjusting for the federal deficit. North Dakota got $1.47. See spreadsheet here with numbers for each state.