The national Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council (SBE Council) has released its "U.S. Business Policy Index 2012: Ranking the States on Policy Measures and Costs Impacting Small Business and Entrepreneurship."

Governor's Office/Tim Larsen

The Index, now in its 17th year, ranks the 50 states according to 46 different policy measures, including a wide array of tax, regulatory and government spending measures. New Jersey ranks 49th. Only California fares worse.

"I do not bear good news," says Ray Keating, SBE Council's chief economist and author of the study. "New Jersey has the second worst score on the Index this year. Only California is worse."

There are some positives for New Jersey. Our gas tax ranks 3rd best. The Garden State's crime rate comes in at #8 and our sales tax ranks #10.

Keating explains, "Of course when you rank as bad as New Jersey does, you've got a bunch of negatives."

Those negatives include, property taxes (49th in the nation), income taxes (47th), capital gains taxes (48th), interest tax rates (47th), corporate income taxes (43rd), utility costs (43rd), state and local government spending (47th) and state and local government debt (45th).

"Quite simply, policy decisions matter when it comes to making business and investment decisions," says Keating. "Entrepreneurs and investors understand this fact of economic life. But it's hit or miss with elected officials. As illustrated by this index, some get it, and some clearly do not."

SBE Council president and CEO Karen Kerrigan explains, "With all of the focus on federal policy in recent times, it is important to remember that policies at the state level have a major effect on entrepreneurs and businesses for better or for worse."

Keating believes that New Jersey is headed in the right direction, but it will be a long haul.

The top five states in this year's Index are; 1) South Dakota, 2) Nevada, 3) Texas, 4) Wyoming and 5) Florida.