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Anticipating the bull in today’s budget debate

During this senate’s debate this afternoon on the proposed state budget you are likely to hear sophisticated phrases like “I’m a’votin agin’ this here budget because it spends too much dang money.” The senator that makes this statement or something similar will then proceed to tout how much the state budget has grown in dollars over the past few years. His or her numbers will undoubtedly be grossly misleading because they fail to a) adjust for inflation; b) adjust for population growth; and c) include a full business cycle worth of data.

Here are a few facts on the senate’s budget proposal from the NC Budget & Tax Center:

• The Senate’s proposed general fund budget for FY 2009-10 amounts to $2,131 per person. That is $185, or 7.9%, less than the budget ten years earlier (FY 1990-00) after adjusting for inflation.
• The Senate’s proposed general fund budget equates to 6.24% of the state’s total personal income compared to 7.11% ten years earlier.

If certain senators prefer to vote against the budget because they think government should be smaller they should simply say what they think government does now that it should no longer do or should do less of (they tried that earlier this year when they said public school class sizes should be larger and then turned around and praised the smaller class sizes of charter schools the following day). They should not attempt to use statistics to show that state spending is out of control because only crude, fuzzy math can make that case. Smart math says otherwise.

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