Lessons not Learned: State Spending Out-of-Control as New Fiscal Year Begins

Photo Credit: APA new fiscal year began on Monday in most states. To celebrate, capitals from Hartford to Sacramento are going on a spending spree, acting as if the recent fiscal crisis never happened…

Exhibit A is California’s Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown, who just signed a $96.3 billion budget, up from $87 billion two years ago, amid a festival atmosphere in Sacramento. This was the first real increase since the Golden State’s $60 billion deficit three years ago.

Oil-rich North Dakota is also celebrating Christmas early. The Republican legislature and Gov. Jack Dalrymple approved budgets this spring for the next two years that pump up spending by more than 50%. The budget finances a massive expansion of Medicaid and pork projects, such as the purchase of a marina at a state park. “It’s hard to imagine Democrats would have spent this much,” laments Rob Port, the state’s top taxpayer watchdog and creator of the popular political blog, Say Anything.

Texas approved a biennial budget that increases outlays to $106 billion from $84 billion. Florida was so flush with cash that lawmakers increased the state’s annual budget by more than 6%, to $74.5 billion. Spending was approved for ballet academies, historic courthouses, river ferries and even funds to help cities keep Major League Baseball teams for spring training. All this in a state governed by Republican Rick Scott with GOP majorities in both houses of the legislature.

Virginia and Maryland passed massive transportation bills, aggregating more than $1 billion, to pay for highways, transit, trains and bike paths. The crown jewel of Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley’s Maryland budget, up 8.5%, was a $1 billion “investment” for the construction of wind farms, financed with new utility surcharges.

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