Monday, February 11, 2008

When Will The Idaho Republicans Quit Spending So Much Of Our Money?

The chart above shows what has happened with Idaho's General Fund budget since the Idaho Republican Party took over the Governor's Office in 1994 and solidified its dominance of the Legislature and the entire state budget. It is not pretty--the Idaho Republicans have spent taxpayer dollars at a rate that far outpaces per capita income growth, inflation, and population growth.

The blue line shows the actual general fund budget beginning in fiscal year 1995 and continuing on each year to Governor Otter's proposal for fiscal year 2009. Those numbers come straight from the Idaho Legislature's website.

The red line shows what the general fund would have been if the Republicans had kept pace with per capita income growth, inflation, and population growth. The red line is what I consider to be a "fiscally conservative budget." It does not represent any budget cuts, however; it only represents what would have happened if, beginning in fiscal year 1995, we would have only increased the budget to account for per capita income growth, inflation, and population growth.

To arrive at the numbers on the red line, I used the actual general fund budget for FY 1995 (Cecil Andrus's last budget) as the base year budget. Then, I first increased the actual general fund budget by the annual percentage increase in per capita income, numbers which came straight from the Idaho Department of Labor's website. I had to forecast per capita income numbers for 2007 and 2008 using the past data, because those numbers are not available.

Second, I upwardly adjusted again for Idaho's annual population increase. Those numbers came straight from the United States Census Bureau's website.

Third, I upwardly adjusted one last time for the increase in the consumer price index (CPI), a national figure obtained from the United States Department of Labor's website. The Idaho Department of Commerce's website explains that Idaho uses the national CPI because there is no index for Idaho. I had to forecast the final fully adjusted general fund budget for FY 2009 using past data because economic data for that time period is not yet available.

The chart tells a sad, sad story. Among the many points that can be made from this chart are the following:

1. When Governor Phil Batt ended the Democrats' control of the Governor's Office in Idaho at the end of 1994, the last fiscal year General Fund budget (1995) of former Democrat Governor Cecil Andrus was 1.26 billion dollars. This year, Republican Governor Butch Otter has proposed a fiscal year 2009 general fund budget of 3.13 billion dollars. That is 2.47 times bigger than the budget that the Republican Party inherited from Governor Andrus. If Idaho's all-Republican government had passed the conservative budgets shown on the red line, our fiscal year 2009 budget would be 1.95 billion dollars, or just 1.54 times bigger than Governor Andrus's last budget.

2. The Idaho general fund really started to take off in fiscal year 1999, which was Governor Batt's last budget. Overall, Governor Batt did a good job with the budget, which is a reflection of his honest-to-goodness fiscally conservative nature. Kudos to Governor Batt! Governor Kempthorne, however, really kicked the general fund budget increases into high gear. He and the Republican-dominated Legislature had to back off a bit when the national economy sank into a recession after the Internet bubble burst and the economic consequences of 9-11. Alas, starting again in fiscal year 2005, the Idaho Republicans got back to spending like drunken sailors in a Shanghai saloon. Governor Otter's newest budget proposal (currently being debated in the Idaho Legislature) does nothing the alleviate the huge discrepancy between how much our government spends and how much it should spend if wage growth, inflation, and population growth are considered.

3. If Idaho's general fund budget increased close to increases in per capita income, inflation, and population growth, my forecast would give Idaho a fiscal year 2009 budget of 1.95 billion dollars. I consider this number to represent a truly fiscally conservative budget. Governor Otter proposes 3.13 billion dollars. The grand total difference between all of the actual general fund budgets and truly conservative general fund budgets from fiscal year 1996 to fiscal year 2009 is 5.16 billion dollars.

4. Recent budget increases under Governors Kempthorne, Risch, and Otter are downright scary. Beginning in fiscal year 2007 and continuing through to fiscal year 2009's proposed budget, the increases have been 18.93%, 8.75%, and 10.87%.

Finally, if the Republicans want to argue that their huge budgets are justified by Idaho's growing economy, as represented by Idaho's gross domestic product (GDP), they will lose on that count too. From 1997 to 2006, Idaho's GDP rose by 75.05%, whereas Idaho's general fund budget grew by 121.37%. They can't run; they can't hide. The Idaho Republican Party has spent this tax money with Republican governors, a veto-proof Republican majority in the Legislature, and a Democrat Party that has had no serious power base at all in Idaho for more than a decade.

I am simply stunned and massively disillusioned with how the Idaho Republican Party has grown government and spent our tax money. The Idaho Republican Party is not the party of fiscal conservatism. The stone cold facts reveal the Idaho Republican Party to be the party of taxing and spending.

No comments: