California’s Spending “Cuts”

I was just skimming the Washington Post and noticed the bold type “In Fact” information at the top of page 2 regarding the new California state budget:

“The legislation Schwarzenegger signed includes $7.1 billion in spending cuts.”

My phone happened to ring and it was an analyst for the California legislature who needed some other information. But he had the actual California numbers at his fingertips. Under the new budget deal, general fund spending will be $103.4 billion in fiscal 2009, up very slightly from $103.3 billion in fiscal 2008. There is no actual “cut” in the overall budget.

The analyst noted that the $7 billion refers to the scaling back of Schwarzenegger’s proposed spending increases from earlier in the year. Unfortunately, states play the same rising baseline game that the federal government plays, but that doesn’t mean that the media has to go along with it.

State reporters: Please report actual spending in dollars for the current and prior fiscal years when telling us about state budgets. That would allow readers to form their own view about whether governments are cutting, freezing, or increasing spending.