Conservatism is supposed to mean less government, especially in terms of spending. In Texas, nearly every Republican candidate takes a hard turn to the right to prove just how conservative they have been. This marketing strategy has proved quite successful, considering that Republicans are expected to again dominate our state executive and legislative branches. How has the record matched with the rhetoric over the years?
Last year, a massive debate swirled about how much the state was increasing its budget. The Wall Street Journal and conservative/libertarian groups like the Texas Public Policy Foundation claimed the 2014-15 budget was increasing by 26% compared to the 2012-2013 budget. Governor Rick Perry and legislators fought back by saying it wasn’t even close to that big of an increase if you took into consideration population growth and inflation. While neither side came to an agreement over a proper formula, what the debate proved was that you can make numbers look any way you want if you create the right formula. Without the formulas, the numbers don’t lie.
Since 2001, Texas has seen both great economic (real GDP up nearly 44%) and population growth (up 25%). State spending, however, has outgrown both combined. In fact, state spending has outgrown the “out-of-control spending” of the Federal government. As you can see in the chart below, Texas’ net expenditures have increased since 2001 over 87% compared to Federal outlays having increased at a rate of just over 85%. They are practically a mirror of one another.
As politicians argued in 2013, many now will say that these numbers are too simplistic. But, if you use their own formula of population growth * inflation that was used in 2013, you will only get a cumulative total of 65% (25% growth * 32% inflation), well below our states’ total spending growth.
This information certainly won’t affect the outcome of the upcoming elections, but the 84th Legislative session is just around the corner, and the budget is always the talk of the town. If you meet with your legislator before then, ask him/her if they think the Federal government’s spending is out of control. Without a doubt, most Republicans will say yes. If they do, then show them the above chart, and ask them if the same answer should apply to Texas as well. Remind them that conservatism means less not more.
Update: As expected there have been plenty of naysayers out there saying we haven’t counted debt or GDP per capita. Here are some more figures to back our assertions. GDP per capita in Texas in 2001 was $45,300. In 2013, it was $52,039. That’s less than a 15% increase. Per person spending has increased from $2,684 to $4,018 per person or up 50%. Spending has continually outpaced population growth and GDP per capita growth. Debt has increased from $29 billion in principal obligations in 2000 to $43.5 billion 2013 or a 50% increase. Debt growth has clearly outpaced population growth and GDP per capita growth as well.
- Texas GDP: Federal Reserve Economic Data
- Texas Population: Texas Department of State Health Services, Center for Health Statistics
- Texas Spending – Texas Comptroller, Texas Annual Cash Reports
- 2013 Texas Annual Cash Report
- 2012 Texas Annual Cash Report
- 2011 Texas Annual Cash Report
- 2010 Texas Annual Cash Report
- 2009 Texas Annual Cash Report
- 2008 Texas Annual Cash Report
- 2007 Texas Annual Cash Report
- 2006 Texas Annual Cash Report
- 2005 Texas Annual Cash Report
- 2004 Texas Annual Cash Report
- 2003 Texas Annual Cash Report
- 2002 Texas Annual Cash Report
- 2001 Texas Annual Cash Report
- U.S. Inflation: Bureau of Labor Statistics, CPI Inflation Calculator
- U.S. Spending: White House, Office of Management and Budget, Historical Tables