The 2011 State Budget: Seven Things That Make Us Cringe

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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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Nothing in the foregoing should be construed as an attempt to aid or hinder passage of any legislation.

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