So, so, so many cuts.
Listen long enough to the big spenders who populate the Land of Enchantment’s political establishment, and you might become convinced that for many years now, Santa Fe has “slashed” spending on “vital public services,” putting New Mexicans’ safety at risk while failing to adequately “invest in our children.” Whether blamed on Susana Martinez (a hardy perennial), the Great Recession, inadequate fedpork, or the state’s rollercoaster-ride on the vicissitudes of the oil market, the message is always the same: We must ratchet up government expenditures, to account for all the austerity New Mexico has been forced to endure over the past decade.
The problem with that narrative is … there’s no evidence to support it.
Earlier this month, Errors of Enchantment took a look at spending on a few of liberals’ favorite programs and subsidies, such as “early childhood education” and Medicaid. But exploring all spending, adjusted for both inflation and population, confirms that Santa Fe’s spending machine has not been throttled back. The chart above depicts all-funds expenditures — everything from roads/highways to colleges and universities, prisons to museums, government “authorities” to interest on debt. The data show that the decade between the 2007 and 2017 fiscal years saw per capita spending expand by 7.9 percent.
And if we had figures for the 2018 and 2019 fiscal years, that 7.9 percent “gain” would likely be significantly larger. The 2017 fiscal year ended on June 30, 2017 — more than 16 months ago. (We won’t have final numbers on fiscal 2018 until the Department of Finance and Administration issues the comprehensive annual financial report for the year — and the bureaucracy’s CAFRs are consistently late.)
So before state legislators and New Mexico’s new chief executive rush to blow that $2 billion, not-likely-to-be-recurring surplus, a dose of fiscal reality might be in order. The harder you look, the harder it is to find the “cuts.”