July 22, 2010

Recent RI Budget History, Part 3 of 3

Carroll Andrew Morse

The final graph in this series shows the recent history of Rhode Island's combined state and local spending. Rhode Island's Municipal Affairs Office provides annual data on total municipal spending with state aid broken out in a separate column, allowing the state-aid contribution to local budgets to be subtracted out, avoiding the double-counting of intra-governmental transfers. Complementary to this, much of the yellow "education" section attributed to the state budget is money that is ultimately spent by municipal governments. (Municipal Affairs data available on the Internet goes back to 2001, and FY2011 data is presumably still being collected).

This graph has been normalized for inflation, so the roughly steady increase in the total represents a real increase in the amount being spent by goverment.


This pattern is one of government growth on autopilot for most of the decade, whether the national economic climate was good or bad, whether state revenues were increasing or decreasing.

This idea of government expansion that is automatic and inevitable -- with everything outside of government expected to adjust accordingly, of course -- is an important focus of the dissatisfaction being expressed with regards to the direction that our state and nation are headed, as more and more people come to realize that steady increases in the real amount spent by government cannot continue indefinitely.