Is Governor Richardson a Big Spender?

The National Review sends Paul Gessing out to attack Bill Richardson as some big spending liberal. I wonder if this has anything to do with his decision to run for the White House as a Democrat? Now if Mr. Gessing has provided any context to his claims, I doubt his op-ed would have been dishonest enough for Rich Lowry and Jonah Goldberg to publish in their rag:

Richardson’s proclivity for expanding government is obvious, given the astounding 11 percent one-year spending hike he has proposed for fiscal 2008. Having grown the size of state government by an average of nearly 7 percent per year, Richardson’s record has been that of a big spender. But with the state awash in $720 million of unexpected oil and gas revenue, the temptation to spend has overwhelmed him. First and foremost, Richardson seems obsessed with lavishing more money on New Mexico’s broken public-education system. With New Mexico’s fourth and eighth graders consistently ranking among the worst performers nationally, one might expect the governor to propose major school reform, or even an educational-choice option such as tax credits for low-income students. Instead, he is simply rewarding K-through-12 teachers with 7.4 percent raises, and the schools themselves with a 9.1 percent overall funding increase that includes additional monies for the expansion of an unproven pre-kindergarten program.

Let’s assume that Governor Richardson did inherent an unfunded education system that is failing the children of New Mexico? Wouldn’t increasing education spending make sense? But let’s put this 11% proposed 2008 increase in context by going to New Mexico’s fiscal data. In 2005, spending was $4.71 billion or 6.8% of state GDP (reported at $68.87 billion) and revenues were $4.97 billion or 7.2% of state GDP. New Mexico was not a big spending state in 2005. While the budget estimates that spending will rise to $5.36 billion in 2006, but will fall to $5.18 billion in 2007. In other words, the average annual projected increase from 2005 to 2007 would be only 5% per year.

I’m not sure where Mr. Gessing gets his 11% as the Department of Finance documents don’t take Appropriations beyond 2007. But let’s assume he’s correct. Projected spending would be $5.75 billion in 2008 as compared to revenues of $5.84 billion. In nominal terms, we would be talking about a 6.9% increase per year, which would likely increase the spending to state GDP ratio slightly. But this would be less than what Mr. Gessing has claimed. Let’s just hope the children of New Mexico get a better education than the readers of the National Review.