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Commonwealth Budget Still Not Under Control

In a story for the Watchdog.org's Virginia Bureau, Kathryn Watson writes:

"Gov. Bob McDonnell has yet another Christmas gift for taxpayers: He plans to spend more of your hard-earned money and issue more debt to saddle your children’s generation.

"McDonnell’s budget amendments for 2014 and a new report on state spending from 2003 to 2012 have a running theme. The former is a blueprint for spending more taxpayer dollars, the latter is proof that the commonwealth is already spending said dollars at a rate faster than inflation and population growth."

According to Watson:

"While McDonnell proposed $524 million in agency savings and cuts in his budget amendments this week, he still managed to add $735 million in new spending, and $200 million net, to the budget. Never mind that he requested $200 million in new bonds for improving water quality, adding to the state’s roughly $64 billion debt."

At Bacon's Rebellion on Monday, Jim Bacon adds:

"Over the last decade, Virginia’s operating budget increased by $15.4 billion (62%) — a 35% increase in general funds and an 86% increase in non-general funds. When controlling for growth in population and inflation, total budget growth was 18% over the ten-year period.

"So says “The Review of State Spending: 2012 Update” released November by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC). After adjustments, General Fund spending actually declined 1% over the decade but non-general fund spending more than made up the difference."

The following graphic was included in Bacon's blog post; it comes from the JLARC report on spending.

The report by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) is required by Section 30-58.3 of the Code of Virginia. It covers 10 years, and is the 12th in a series. The latest report, for FY 2003-FY2012, includes such key findings as:

  • "Overall budget growth was largely the result of growth in non-general funds in FYs 2008-2011, led in part by an infusion of federal stimulus funds in FYs 2010-2011. (pp. 7-10)"
  • "The ten largest state agencies (of 151 agencies) accounted for 70% of the entire state budget in FY 2012 and 73% of all budget growth between FYs 2003 amd 2012. (pp. 11-12)"
  • "Growth in budget programs was also concentrated in a few large core programs: nine programs (of 196) in health care, education, and transportation accounted for 78% of total budget growth over the ten-year period. (p. 17)"

The governor's press release announcing all proposed amendments to the 2012-2014 budget is here. We growled after the release of previous JLARC reports on state spending, including April 19, 2011 and March 10, 2008.

The good news is the General Assembly is getting better at keeping spending within the limits of inflation and population increases.. The bad news is they still have a ways to go.

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