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Gateway Arch

The Gateway Arch is lit up in this view from the east taken on Nov. 22, 2001. Photo by Andrew Cutraro of the Post-Dispatch

JEFFERSON CITY • When it comes to how well states serve their residents, a new report puts Missouri 13th from the bottom of the 50 states, primarily for falling short in categories such as crime, the economy and transportation.

According to the inaugural best states ranking issued by U.S. News & World Report on Tuesday, Illinois ranks 29th, with Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Minnesota topping the data-driven study as the top three states.

The report evaluated all 50 states across a range of criteria, from education and health care to infrastructure and economy, to capture how states best serve their residents.

In the report, the authors did find a few sunny spots for 37th-ranked Missouri.

“It’s government ties for the best use of technology, and the state ranks 10th for its high school graduation rate,” the report noted.

Missouri also ranked ninth for affordability.

But that affordability ranking also may have affected its 14th-worst state ranking in transportation.

At 17 cents per gallon, Missouri’s gasoline tax is among the lowest in the nation. Proponents of raising the tax, which hasn’t been changed since 1996, say the state is trying to maintain its highways in the 21st century using 20th-century funding levels.

Gov. Eric Greitens did not call for a motor fuel tax increase in his proposed budget, and attempts are underway to use general tax revenue to fix state roads in the fiscal year beginning July 1.

Illinois, by contrast, ranked 10th for infrastructure and is among the top states for gender equality.

It also has among the best internet speeds and lowest suicide rates, according to the report.

Among neighboring states, Iowa came in at No. 6 and Nebraska was 13th, followed by Kansas at 28th.

Tennessee, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Arkansas trailed Missouri.

The report used weighted measures for categories such as health care, education, transportation, crime, economic development and government to create the rankings.

The authors of the report said the rankings give readers a new way to analyze the nation.

“It shows which state policies are working and which can be improved, and encourages citizens to interact more with their governments to promote positive change,” the report says.

The top five best overall states are geographically and politically diverse. Following Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Minnesota are the No. 2 and No. 3 best overall states, respectively. North Dakota places fourth, and Washington rounded out the top five.

Hawaii is No. 1 in health care; Oregon takes the top spot in infrastructure; Colorado is No. 1 for economy; and Indiana places first for government.

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