"Don't tell me we aren't spending any money"

One of the most useful publications from Legislative Council is their Budget and Fiscal Trends documents which presents the state’s spending and revenues in a series of fairly easy to understand graphs.

Click here read the most recent iteration of this report (along with past reports) which is currently being distributed to lawmakers today. In fact, a lawmaker friend forwarded me a couple of the graphs out of the publication with the quip, “Don’t tell me we aren’t spending any money.”

Here are the charts the lawmaker was referencing. The first breaks down state spending in terms of general fund dollars, special funds, and federal pass-through dollars in the budget (the last column is the governor’s budget which lawmakers are considering). The second graph depicts on-going spending versus one-time spending.

With an oil price rout a major concern in the state right now Governor Jack Dalrymple has sought to tamp down fears by pointing out that our budget has a lot of one-time spending which doesn’t have to continue. “We can totally afford this you guys,” is pretty much the summary of his State of the State address yesterday.

But looking at these graphs, we’ve increased on-going spending by a lot (nearly double since 2007-2009), and the governor is still calling for an aggressive 12.7 percent increase in on-going spending for the coming biennium.

Not spending any money, indeed.

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Here are some other interesting graphs from the January 2015 report (which you can see in full below).

The governor’s budget is predicting another huge increase – to the tune of more than 19 percent – in state sales tax collections in the next biennium which, as you can see, are an outsized portion of the state’s overall revenues. Is that a healthy expectation given a) that western North Dakota is producing most of the sales tax revenues these days and b) dropping oil prices are tamping down economic activity out there?

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In recent bienniums the state has poured money on local governments, as this chart shows. Now, ask yourself why your property taxes keep going up.

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Here’s the full report:

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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