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Virginia General Assembly Still Unable to Control Spending

 Virginia's Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) released a draft of its 2017 update of state spending (JLARC Report 498) last month. The 40-page report is required by the Code of Virginia, specifically:

"The Code of Virginia requires the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) to produce an annual report on growth in state spending over the prior five biennia, identify the largest and fastest growing functions and programs in the budget, and analyze long-term trends and causes of spending in these programs. (See Appendix A.)

"Prior reports reviewed spending and budget growth for all the previous 10-year periods between FY 1981 and FY16. This report is the 17th in the series and focuses on trends in the state’s operating budget during the past 10 years, from FY08 through FY17."

Here is a summary of the seven major findings taken directly from page i of the JLARC report:

  • Over the past decade, Virginia’s operating budget increased by more than $16 billion (45%)—a 19% increase in general funds and a 68% increase in non- general funds. A variety of economic factors and policies contributed to this growth. Virginia’s population grew by 7% from 2008 to 2016, inflation in- creased by 12%, and Virginia’s personal income increased by 30%.
  • Adjusted for growth in population and inflation, the total budget grew by 21% over the 10-year period; non-general funds increased by 40%; and general funds decreased by 1%. (emphasis added)
  • When general funds declined during the past decade, the total budget continued to in- crease due to the growth in non-general funds. While the annual average increase in general funds over this time period was 2%, the average annual increase in non-general funds was 6%.
  • Total budget growth was concentrated within three major areas: health care, education, and transportation. Nine budget programs (of 215 total programs) within these areas accounted for 60% of total budget growth.
  • The 10 largest state agencies (out of 148) accounted for 66% of the total state budget in FY17 and approximately 64% of all budget growth between FY08 and FY17. The agency that experienced the most growth in total appropriations over the past decade was DMAS.
  • Growth in general and non-general fund appropriations was concentrated in a few large state agencies over the past 10 years. DMAS and the Treasury Board had the highest growth amount in general funds. DMAS and VDOT had the highest non-general fund growth amounts over this time period.
  • The general fund appropriations for 50 agencies either grew more slowly than inflation or declined.

ACTA has growled about several of JLARC's annual updates of Virginia state spending -- at least the 2014 update here; 2010 update here; 2009 update here; and 2007 update here.  Unfortunately, the Virginia budget increased in each of those four years even after adjusting for inflation and population growth., and undoubtedly increased in most if not all of the 17 reports in the series. Thank goodness for the transparency of the JLARC analyses of state spending, but the citizens of Virginia need to find a better way of engaging members of the Virginia General Assembly on fiscal issues so that Virginia's budget grows no more than inflation and population growth.

Growls readers who are concerned about fiscal issues in Virginia should take a few minutes to write to Governor McAuliffe or Governor-elect Ralph Northam. Click-on the following link:

Growls readers should also write to their state legislators. The following legislators represent Arlington County in the Virginia General Assembly: Senators (Adam Ebbin, Barbara Favola, or Janet Howell) and Delegates (Rip Sullivan, Patrick Hope, Alfonso Lopez, or Mark Levine). They remain the same after tonight's election results. Contact information for members of the General Assembly can be found here  -- then use one of the "quick links" to locate the senator and delegate who represent you.

And tell them ACTA sent you.


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