Political Notebook

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Indiana 16th-best for freedom, think tank says

Indiana ranks 16th nationally in fiscal, regulatory and personal freedom, according to a study released Thursday by a conservative think tank at George Mason University.

The Virginia school’s Mercatus Center compared states using 2011 data on a variety of policies, including taxes, government spending, property rights, occupational licensing requirements, marriage laws and regulations on alcohol, tobacco, seat-belt use and motorcycle helmets.

The Mercatus Center’s board of directors includes Charles Koch, chairman and CEO of Koch Industries Inc., and Richard Fink, an executive vice president of the company. The Koch family is a leading financier of conservative and libertarian organizations, causes and political candidates.

Indiana ranked first in the study in regulatory freedom, seventh in personal freedom and 38th in fiscal freedom.

Among subsections, the Hoosier State tied for first, with seven other states, for campaign finance freedom and was third in gambling freedom. The Hoosier State’s lowest subsection rankings were 39th for tax burden and 34th for government debt burden and arrests for “victimless crimes,” which include drug use, weapons possession and prostitution.

Study authors William Ruger and Jason Sorens wrote: “Indiana is one of the rare outposts of freedom among the Great Lakes states. Nevertheless, it could do more to improve, especially in the fiscal policy dimension.”

Their recommendations for Indiana’s legislature included reducing income taxes, cutting spending on public welfare, libraries, housing, community development and education, and repealing laws restricting alcohol sales.

North Dakota finished first in the study, and New York was last.

This is the Mercatus Center’s fourth such analysis. Indiana ranked eighth for 2001, 25th for 2007 and 11th for 2009.

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