Reining in State Spending

Mark Hargrove | May 23, 2012

Our founders knew that limited government that left us free to pursue our own happiness was what would lead to prosperity for our country. But if you look at this history of state spending, you can see that our state government is anything but limited.

Click here to view a PDF version of this chart.

The spending bubble over the past 8 years of one party control has really been out of control. But beyond this, you can see that as our government has grown like crazy over the past 30 years, how our operating budget has increased from $6.5 billion per biennium to over $31 billion.

If our government and associated spending had only grown at the combined rate of inflation and population growth, our operating budget this biennium would only be about $22 billion. What can government do with that extra $9 billion? A lot. But now you're thinking like a politician.

Can we reduce state spending? Of course. But it will require determination and principled leadership.

What if, instead, that $9 billion was left in the hands of the people to buy more goods and services, and those businesses had to hire more employees who would buy more goods and services, and so on. That is the way to get Washington working again. That is the way to help our neighbors out of the troubles they're facing.

And if we could scale back the burdensome regulations on our small businesses and give them some tort reform and replace the horrible B&O tax, then we'd really help our small businesses create jobs!

Can we reduce state spending? Of course. But it will require determination and principled leadership, because once people have something given to them, they don't want to give it back. We can at least start with some easy ones. For example, is it prudent to mandate that 1% of the cost of capital building projects be spent on art? Do we really need a $480,000 new viaduct museum? And should we really be spending millions paying middle class Washingtonians to carpool to work?

There are much bigger savings that will take even more political will. For example, we can significantly cut the costs of our transportation construction costs. I'm up for that challenge!