Here’s what House Speaker Kurt Daudt said in the hours following the end of the special session.
“I’m proud to say, upon enactment, our budget will have the third lowest percent increase in general fund spending in over 50 years.”
Daudt is correct, but his statement deserves some context.
Spending for the coming biennium will be up by 5.3 percent to $41.8 billion, making it the third lowest increase in general fund spending in the last 50 years. The 2010-2011 biennium actually reduced general fund spending by more than 11 percent while the 1986-1987 biennium increased spending by 4.9 percent.
But that number doesn’t include other budgeting factors, including some relatively large chunks of money legislators agreed to move off the books from the coming biennium by spending the money in fiscal year 2015, which ends in two weeks.
For instance, money was moved from general health and human services into the Health Care Access Fund, which is used to pay for some health care programs. That had the effect of lowering spending in the coming budget cycle.
When you factor all those decisions in, the Legislature actually decided this session to spend nearly $42.5 billion – or about 8.3 percent more – making it the sixth smallest increase in the state’s general fund.
And here’s more critical context: New spending for the coming biennium was going to be low no matter what.
If Legislators and Gov. Mark Dayton had proposed no new funding over the budget forecast, spending would have increased automatically by 4.7 percent – the second smallest increase in the state’s general fund. That’s because some programs, like school funding, automatically adjust for predicted higher enrollment.
And if legislators had adopted Gov. Mark Dayton’s proposed budget verbatim, it would have been an 8.8 percent increase in growth – the 6th lowest growth increase.
Of course, none of these spending increases are adjusted for inflation, which could change the picture.
Daudt’s claim deserves some context. But even with additional details, like money that was spent this fiscal year instead of next fiscal year, he’s only off by 3 percentage points.
By and large, Daudt’s claim is accurate.