Democratic gubernatorial nominee Bill White stopped in Midland on Monday, saying he'll be fiscally wiser as governor than the Republican incumbent.
"I know how to squeeze value out of taxpayers' dollars," White told Midland's KWES-TV, Channel 9. "The state budget has gone up over 80 percent under Rick Perry. That's just too much. We're not getting the value out of those dollars that we need to get out."
Over 80 percent?
That percentage sounded familiar. In a February Truth-O-Meter article, we reported that budgeted non-dedicated state spending increased 80 percent from the 2000-01 budget, adopted the year before Perry became governor, to the current budget. We found shaky Perry's statement that on his watch, "we cut state spending."
After asking White's campaign for backup on his "over 80 percent" statement, we revisited the budget numbers -- and realized an error of our own.
We were correct in February that budgeted non-dedicated spending has increased about $25 billion during Perry's decade-plus as governor. Indeed, such spending increased from $55.7 billion in 2000-01 to nearly $80.6 billion in 2010-11, according to the "Fiscal Size-up" for 2010-11 published by the Legislative Budget Board. However, we miscalculated the percentage increase, which was 45 percent -- not the 80 percent we reported.
And how did White reach his proclaimed increase of over 80 percent? The entire budget, counting all funding sources including federal and local aid, increased from nearly $101.8 billion in 2000-01 to almost $182.2 billion in 2010-11-- a boost of 79 percent. (Please free free to check our math; we thank you.)
We ran the 79 percent bump by Dale Craymer, president of the Texas Taxpayers and Research Association. He suggested any comparison of the 2000-01 budget and the 2010-11 budget take into account two factors in the latest budget that weren't at play in 2000-01.
First, Perry and state lawmakers agreed several years ago to cover reductions in school property taxes with state revenue; that's costing $14 billion in the 2010-11 budget. Craymer said that commitment doesn't translate to an increase in government spending; it's a shift in which level of government is doing the spending. Second, the latest budget includes about $12 billion in one-time federal stimulus aid. Take the combined $26 billion out of the comparison and the state budget increase since 2000-01 falls to 53 percent.
The budget board offers another way of weighing changes in spending by adjusting raw budget numbers for changes in population and inflation. At our request, the board created a chart enabling us to compare the adjusted numbers for the 2000-01 budget against the 2010-11 version. Counting all funding sources, during Perry's gubernatorial years the state budget adjusted for changes in population and inflation has increased 18 percent.
So, where does this leave White's statement?
White spokeswoman Katy Bacon said in a Tuesday e-mail that White should have said "about 80 percent" in the Midland interview instead of "over 80 percent."
Bacon's e-mail also notes expectations the 2011 Legislature will confront an $18 billion revenue shortfall, which Bacon calls a deficit. Given that, her e-mail says, "Bill will have to make cuts. He is very good at this and has often discussed his approach to making cuts and finding efficiencies. He has said he needs to 'get under the hood' and also work with legislators on specific cuts."
Upshot: Budgeted spending increased nearly 79 percent on Perry's watch, not the "over 80 percent" White said. Also, there are ways to analyze the increase that reduce the growth percentage. Still, it's defensible to lean on raw budget amounts.
We rate White's statement Mostly True.