The 2017 Budget for Rhode Island in Historical Perspective


1. The first graph, as always, is the history of Rhode Island’s state budget from all sources since 1998, in terms of dollars spent at the time they were spent (or are projected to be spent, in the cases of FY2016 and FY2017), i.e. what economists refer to as “current dollars”. Figures for FY2016 and FY2017 are from the House of Representatives’ Fiscal Advisory staff budget briefing book; figures from the years preceding those are from past budget documents posted at the State of Rhode Island Budget Office website.

(Click on any chart to get a magnified view).


2. The next chart shows amounts spent from all sources, adjusted for inflation. The inflation adjustment is based on the Consumer Price Index data series compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, available via the RI Department of Labor and Training website. Inflation and dollars available from Federal programs are the two greatest sources of fluctuations with regards to future projections, and likely will be the major factors that determine if 2017 ultimately passes 2016 as the most expensive year in Rhode Island state government history.


3. Probably the most significant chart in terms of the future of Rhode Island is inflation-adjusted state general revenues. Since passing through “Carcieri’s notch” in FY2009 and FY2010, inflation-adjusted state spending utilizing general revenues (primarily income plus sales taxes) has grown at a very steady pace, under both the Chafee and Raimondo administrations, with state government taking in and spending about $460M more in inflation-adjusted dollars than it did in FY2010.

Readers should feel free to ask their State Representatives and Senators — especially those who have served 3 or more terms — what they have received in return for the additional $460M the state now spends relative to FY2010.


4. Finally, the last chart shows the inflation-adjusted state spending from Federal funds, where we may still be searching for the post-financial crisis “new normal”.