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State Republican Chairman Edward F. Cox claimed New York state has the highest debt per capita. (Courtesy: New York State Republican Committee Facebook Page) State Republican Chairman Edward F. Cox claimed New York state has the highest debt per capita. (Courtesy: New York State Republican Committee Facebook Page)

State Republican Chairman Edward F. Cox claimed New York state has the highest debt per capita. (Courtesy: New York State Republican Committee Facebook Page)

By Dan Clark February 16, 2018

New York state leads the country in government debt per resident

State Republican Chairman Edward F. Cox says New York state’s debt per person is higher than any other state.

"We have the highest debt per capita," Cox said at a debate among three Republican candidates for governor.

The claim comes among a string of criticisms from state Republicans against the economic record of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

Cox recently claimed that unemployment was up in every county in the state outside New York City. We rated that claim Mostly True. State Sen. John DeFrancisco, a GOP candidate for governor, claimed that one-third of New York state’s population is on Medicaid. That’s True.

But there’s also evidence the state’s economy has improved since Cuomo took office. The state has more private sector jobs than ever before, and unemployment has dropped statewide.

So what about the debt? It is one of the few economic indicators for the state we haven’t looked at. Is Cox’s claim correct?

Government debt per capita

A spokesperson for Cox said he was talking about debt incurred by state and local governments, not personal debt like credit cards or auto loans.

New York state ranked highest in government debt for residents in 2015, the latest data available.

The debt per person was $17,528 in New York state, according to the Empire Center. The center is a non-partisan, non-profit think tank based in Albany that calls for policy reforms based on free-market principles, personal responsibility and effective and accountable government. It used data from the U.S. Census Bureau and Bureau of Economic Analysis to calculate the rate for each state.

The next highest state was Massachusetts, with government debt at $13,733 per person. Wyoming had the lowest rate, with $3,376 of government debt per person.

New York state has ranked highest each year since Cuomo took office in 2011. Government debt was $17,204 per capita in New York state that year, according to data from the Tax Foundation, a right-leaning tax policy and finance analysis organization.

Our ruling

Cox said "We have the highest debt per capita."

The latest data proves Cox’s claim. New York state has had the highest state and local government debt per capita since at least 2011.

We rate it True.

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Our Sources

"Republican gubernatorial hopefuls debate in Amherst," WBFO, Feb. 10, 2018

Email conversation with Jessica Proud, spokesperson for Edward Cox

Email conversation with Ken Girardin, Policy Analyst at the Empire Center

State and Local Debt Per Capita, FY 2015, The Empire Center

Email conversation with John Buhl, Media Relations Manager at the Tax Foundation

State and Local Debt Per Capita: FY 2011, FY 2012, FY 2013, FY 2014, The Tax Foundation

PolitiFact New York: Unemployment inching up in almost every county outside New York City, Jan. 17, 2018

PolitiFact New York: One in three people in New York is on Medicaid, July 21, 2017

PolitiFact New York: New York has more private sector jobs than ever before, July 22, 2016

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New York state leads the country in government debt per resident

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