Are State Agencies Really “Overspending”?

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Unfortunately, we have to admit that this is nothing new:

Overspending by state agencies has opened up a $42-million hole in this year’s budget, according to new estimates from the state budget office.

The state departments of Children, Youth and Families; Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals; Labor and Training; and Revenue were among eight agencies over budget in the first quarter of the fiscal year that started July 1, according to a memo from State Budget Officer Thomas Mullaney on Thursday.

Some doubt is arising, however, whether we can really claim that these agencies are “overspending.” When departments regularly spend more than their budgets and the governor and General Assembly simply add money in a supplemental budget as the books come to a close and then audits come in much lower, it begins to look as if the departments are simply following the ordinary course of operation.

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For fiscal years 2012 through 2017, the state government increased its supplemental budget by an average of 2.4% and then actually spent an average of 4.7% less than that.  Every year, the state estimates that it is overspending and adds money to the supplemental budget.  The local news media for some reason tends to trumpet the increase from the supplemental amount to the next year’s final, which looks more reasonable because the bulk of the increase is in the supplemental.  All of this happens with plenty of fluff above the actual spending of the state, with a reliable 2.6% annual increase.



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