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Analysis: Beware of Texas politicians bearing home-brewed arithmetic

If you look at his campaign missives, it’s clear that the state’s lieutenant governor — or maybe it’s his staff — can’t reconcile his math with his politics.

Dan Patrick complains that spending in “many” cities and counties has been growing at 7% or more per year. And later on, he tries to debunk reports that the state budget went up by more than twice that amount:

“There has been a great deal of misinformation about the growth in the Texas state budget this session bolstered by early reports from the Legislative Budget Board and TPPF [the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank] suggesting the budget increased three or four times more than it actually did. You may have seen e-mails or articles on conservative blogs and news sites this summer that we increased spending this year 12-14%. That was just incorrect,” he wrote.

“After adjusting for almost $19 billion for Hurricane Harvey recovery, which was predominately federal funds, and nearly $6 billion in cuts for taxpayers, annual growth in the 2020-21 budget will be 2.5% — well below the conservative goal of population increase times the rate of inflation.”

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Budgets always look better if you don’t include all of the money you’re spending. The bottom-line numbers are right there to see. At the end of this legislative session, the House and Senate passed, and the governor signed, a two-year budget totaling $250.6 billion. At the same time two years earlier, the final budget totaled $216.6 billion.

That’s an increase of 15.7%.

Patrick doesn’t want to count $26 billion of the increase, but the budget numbers are clear, and arithmetic doesn’t care about your politics. Besides, he’s still counting most of the federal spending in the current budget, which amounts to $86.4 billion.

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