Maryland ranked 19th in growth in government spending, Tax Foundation says

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By Christopher Goins

Growth in State-SpendingGovernment spending in Maryland grew 30.5% over 10 years beginning in 2001, according to a nonprofit group that researches tax policies.

The Tax Foundation report ranks Maryland 19th overall in terms growth of government spending, which spans the administrations of three governors –  Parris Glendening, Bob Ehrlich, Martin O’Malley — and two political parties.

“Louisiana leads the pack with a 63.6% increase in spending, followed by Wyoming (50.7%) and New Jersey (48.7%),” wrote the Tax Foundation Communications Associate Richard Borean in a July 22 blog post. “On the other end of the spectrum, Alaska’s direct spending grew 8.9%, the lowest in the country,” he continued. “Close behind are West Virginia at 14.2% and South Carolina at 16.8%.”

Less budget growth in Virginia, more in Pa.

Maryland state government spending growth was also higher than it’s neighbor to the south, Virginia ranked 29th and had 26% growth in government spending during 2001 to 2011. This period spanned the end of the Republican Gilmore administration (2001-2002), eight years of two Democrat Party administrations (Warner, Kaine 2002-2010), and the beginning of the McDonnell administration. (Virginia governors may only serve one four-year term.)

Pennsylvania, however was ranked higher than Maryland, coming in 8th overall in the nation and having grown government spending by 40% over 10 years.

According to the DC-based Tax Foundation, the data comes from the 2001 and 2011 state government finance sheets available to the public on the U.S. Census Bureau’s website.

The numbers represent “state government direct spending per capita” for the 10-year period in “real” dollars. Borean said that the numbers were in real dollars “to eliminate the effects of population growth and inflation.”

Budget growth bigger in recent years, says Change Maryland group

“It’s sort of an arbitrary number to go back to the Glendening administration in 2001,” said Change Maryland Chairman Larry Hogan said. “The real number is just during this — (since) 2007 — during this administration, since Martin O’Malley has been governor, state spending and the budget has grown 9 billion dollars,” or 30%, Hogan continued.

Hogan suggested that a better study is the annual growth in state spending study by the National Governor’s Association and the National Association of State Budget Officers. He noted that last years’ study showed that Maryland was ranked fourth in percentage of growth in the state budget. Those numbers evaluate spending in the general fund budget, which does not include transportation, university tuition, or federal funds.

“There are numbers that make Maryland look much worse by other independent groups,” Hogan said.

Government cuts can damage states, budget expert says

Maryland Budget and Tax Policy Institute Director Neil Bergsman argued that during the 2001-2011 time span, states such as North Carolina and Michigan, have made “destructive cuts” that will hurt their economies in the future while Maryland’s leaders have “wisely avoided making those kinds of severe cuts.”

He also said the medical assistance caseload was probably a lot higher in 2011 — during “the greatest recession in the postwar era” — than in 2001.

“There is no question that Maryland has been funding state government, which means education, healthcare, public safety, transportation, better than most other states have during the last decade,” Bergsman said. He said that “bulk of the growth” in the government came from aid to public schools and medical assistance.

Additionally, he claimed the rate of spending growth of the O’Malley administration has been lower “than any recent governor” going back to Democrat Millard Tawes who left office in 1967.

“That’s not because Governor O’Malley has been such as cheapskate,” Bergman said. “It’s because of the poor economy during his years in office.”

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