Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Spend so much, get so little

If people could catch the swine flu from pork, the entire state of Louisiana ought to be dead by now.

Then again, the Gret Stet quickly is heading toward room temperature from just the pork -- forget the flu. Right now, the Louisiana Legislature is considering a "pared-down" annual budget of $27 billion.

And if $27 billion spent over a population of 4.4 million is getting you massive cuts in higher education and everything else -- assuring the further cementing of Louisiana's place on the extreme wrong end of almost every conceivable national ranking -- somebody's getting royally screwed.

Except, I assume, for politicians' brothers-in-law.

PER CAPITA, that comes out to state spending of (rounding off) $6,136.36. And being that $27 billion doesn't go that far in providing decent schools on the bayou, "per capita" means the Gret Stet aims to spend $6,136.36 for every single Louisianian.

But double check me here, I went to Louisiana schools, too.

I've been thinking for a while that $27 billion ought to be plenty for a state the size of Louisiana. Plenty enough, at least, that lots of stuff that does suck so badly there really oughtn't.

So, I thought I'd take a look at the just-passed biennial budget for my present home, Nebraska, where schools are pretty good and suckage seems to be minimal. (See update below.)

NEBRASKA, over the next couple of years -- barring a budget-cutting special session if tax revenues keep coming in under projections -- will spend $6.2 billion. Annually, let's just split that down the middle for a budget of $3.1 billion.

Divide that by the state's population of 1.78 million, and you get per-capita annual spending of $1,741.57. And we're not even at the bottom of any good national rankings . . . or the top of any bad ones.

I suspect some of that per-capita state spending difference comes from municipalities, via local property taxes, paying more of their own way here in Nebraska. And I'm assuming per-capita welfare and Medicaid costs are a lot higher in Louisiana.

But $4,394.79 worth of difference per resident? Really?

IF I WERE still living in Louisiana, I'd be wondering how the state can spend that much and still have that Third World je ne sais quoi about it. I'd also be wondering why cutting a relatively small percentage out of such a large state budget stands to wreak such havoc with, for example, higher education.

But mostly, I'd just be wondering what the hell was going on in Baton Rouge, and why the state was spending so much just to suck so badly in, well . . . everything.

UPDATE: OK, my numbers were off. That's what I get for comparing press reports about the state appropriations bills instead of looking up actual spending requests.

What I didn't account for was that Nebraska separates out all federal and recurrent revenues, and the press was reporting budget figures based on just the state monies plus stimulus money.

Still . . . .

Let's compare what Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal requested for fiscal year 2008-09 and what Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman requested for the same time period. Rounding off for Louisiana, that would be $29.7 billion.

And rounding off for the Cornhusker State, the figure comes out to $7.6 billion.

On a per capita basis, the 2008-09 budgetary request made by Louisiana's Jindal came out to $6,750 in state spending for every Louisianian. In Nebraska, the per capita figure was $4,269.66.

That's still a hell of a difference -- almost $2,500 a head.



Jaybird said...

Not sure where you got that good Nebraska education, but it appears that the Nebraska budget for this year is about 7.7 billion as per So that comes out to $4325.84 per capita compared to Louisiana's $4396.79. considering Louisiana's demographics I do believe that Nebraska is doing a pretty good job of porking it itself. Oink Oink

The Mighty Favog said...

I was wrong. You were wronger. The comparison still holds, though to a lesser degree.