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1851 Center for Constitutional Law

Big news: Maurice Thompson has established the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law.

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Horse shoes and hand grenades

By editor

Kudos to the Dispatch for asking almost the right question: Where’s the $8 billion?

But points off for not answering it. The first sign is a laugher: “I don’t want to . . . say it’s just too complicated. But the fact is, it is really exceedingly complicated to display it in a way that makes sense and ties to what we’ve done.”

Uh huh. There are two ways to interpret this: (1) You’re too stupid and (2) I haven’t done my job. Of course, the third way to interpret it is, “I’ve done my job very well by obscuring what is being done,” in which case refer to interpretation (1).

Even though it’s not possible to explain it to stupid citizens. the paper does put up a graphic with 11 points to explain it.

One of these points is illegitimate off the bat: Delaying debt payments. This is merely a cash flow budget mechanism, not an operating budget. Budgets have to allocate costs to periods. Delaying debt payment to another period has zero to do with budgeting. So there is 5 percent of the $8 billion.

About another 5 percent is also illegitimate: selling assets and revenue streams. Perfectly okay to do, but it’s not budgeting. It’s liquidation, a one time thing.

Three points claim to be cuts, for $1.1 billion. So maybe that’s 15 percent. (But watch out for lying; cuts usually are not cuts. They’re increases. They’re just not as big increases.

Another 1.1 billion is increased tax collections from growing economic activity. This is actually okay. It’s not “safe,” but it’s not unreasonable. So call that 15 percent. We’ve explained about a third so far, about 35 percent.

The largest item, 1.8 billion, call it 25 percent, is “not replacing” federal money spent last cycle. Okay. That just means they cut it last time and the feds stepped in to help out. That’s fine, so long as we can see that actual spending went down somewhere from last budget to this one.

A legitimate item is 1.3 billion in cuts to local government subsidy through stopping reimbursement of another lost revenue stream. Along with the portion of the supposed cuts above having to do with local government, this represents a reduction in subsidy to local government. Altogether this is 25 percent of the supposed gap. Generally this is good. It adds to transparency. If local government needs those services, it should raise local taxes. If it can’t raise local taxes, it should stop providing those services. If the state is to provide the services, then the state should provide those services and the local governments need not enter into it.

Last but not least, $1.4 billion Medicaid. This is the trickiest one. If it represents a reduction in actual Medicaid expenditures, fine. But it doesn’t. It represents a smaller increase than some wish list projection.

But here is the real kicker: Where is the $8 billion from in the first place? They’ve upped the ante, calling it $8.7 billion, which implies they have a source for the figure. So let’s see it. Is it really $8 billion in cuts? Or is it just that you’d like to spend $8 billion more than you have? If the latter, why not $10 billion, or $20 billion? Because that’s just crazy? Yes, it is just crazy. So is the $8 billion. Show us the number, or shut up about it.

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