The 2011 State Budget: Seven Things That Make Us Cringe
The Legislature has sent the state budget to the governor’s desk. As expected, it’s wasteful, irresponsible, and displays a poor sense of priorities. There are scores of examples to choose from. Here are seven.
1. Budget “cuts” quietly turned into budget increases – big ones
- Total education spending is up by at least $279 mil. despite falling enrollment.
- The Dept. of Health & Human Services got a budget increase of almost $200 million. In addition, lawmakers added $231 million in one-time spending for Medicaid.
2. Despite the rhetoric, there are no tax cuts
- What’s being billed as a “tax cut” – $100 million directed to the Unemployment Trust Fund – is actually a bailout for businesses that abused the state’s Unemployment Insurance system.
3. Little to nothing done about non-essential spending and waste
- ETV had its budget “cut,” but lawmakers used budgeting tricks to keep its funding at the same level.
- No change in targeted tax incentives for the film industry – even though these incentives generate a net loss in revenue equal to $0.81 on every dollar invested.
4. Budget-bloating absurdities
- The House gave itself a budget increase of $2 mil.
- Economic development councils (some of which have legislators on their boards) got $5 mil.
5. Sheer bad budgeting
- So-called Maybank money – an anticipated revenue boost from stepped up enforcement – allowed lawmakers to pad budgets at DHHS, Education, Agriculture, and the Election Commission.
- Lawmakers raided reserve funds to avoid making cuts, too. In one proviso alone, the use of reserve funds for core government functions went from $148 million to $255 million.
6. Reforms out the window
- A proviso that banned taxpayer-funded lobbying was deleted, as was a proviso barring state agencies from exceeding their appropriations (DHHS, for example, was permitted to run a $225 mil. deficit for fiscal year 2011).
7. Two steps back for transparency
- State law requires the governor to write the budget and both chambers’ budget committees to consider her budget in open session. Once again, that law was ignored.
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