Republicans Take an Ax to Government

We hear a lot these days about Republicans cutting, slashing, dismantling government. The latest ax-wielder is Virginia governor Robert McDonnell, an oft-mentioned candidate for vice president. Here’s what the Washington Post reports under the (paper) headline “McDonnell looks to shrink government”:

Gov. Robert F. McDonnell announced Tuesday that he is recommending eliminating two state agencies, cutting 19 boards and commissions and de-regulating three professions.

It’s part of his ongoing effort to reshape and shrink state government — one of his signature campaign promises.

McDonnell (R) made the recommendations to the General Assembly. The Department of Planning and Budget estimates the proposals will save at least $2 million per year.

Two million dollars. Two million dollars. That’s what the Washington Post sees as “shrinking government.” I’m guessing the Post doesn’t often run a story when a governor does something that “expands government” by $2 million.

But Virginia has a reputation for fiscal conservatism. Maybe $2 million is actually a big chunk of the state’s budget. Let’s check the numbers. As it turns out, this week the National Governors Association and the National Association of State Budget Officers put out a report on state finances, and it showed that Virginia’s general fund spending is up 7.1 percent in 2012. And according to Virginia’s own budget, that’s an increase of $1.1 billion in FY2012. That’s not the whole budget, by the way. In addition to the $16 billion in General Fund spending, Virginia will also spend $23 billion in FY2012. So let’s review:

Total Virginia spending FY2012          $39,600,000,000

General Fund spending                       16,500,000,000

General Fund spending increase           1,100,000,000

McDonnell’s shrink-government savings       2,000,000

So I guess the total increase in Virginia spending in 2012 won’t be $1,100,000,000, it’ll be $1,098,000,000 – if the legislature approves McDonnell’s recommendations. And of course we certainly can’t be sure that the legislature will approve such recommendations as deregulating interior design and eliminating such vital boards as the Commonwealth Competition Council, the Interagency Dispute Resolution Council, the Virginia Public Buildings Board, the Virginia Council on Human Resources, the Small Business Advisory Board, and more.