Leave it to Jeff Shapiro to point out the GOP’s, shall we say, inconsistency.
According to a recent snapshot, state expenditures ballooned 68 percent from 1994 to 2003. That covers the governorships of Republicans George Allen and Jim Gilmore, the GOP takeover of the General Assembly and the financially austere, do-almost-nothing first half of Democrat Mark R. Warner’s term as chief executive.
Without actually saying it, the assembly’s investigative arm, the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission, suggests in a widely overlooked report issued Monday that the spending spiral can be attributed to a factor that helped lift the Republican Party to power: a 13 percent increase in population to more than 7 million service-demanding Virginians, many of them suburbanites.
Even when adjusted for inflation, the growth in new spending – 36 percent – remains high. It is important to point out that this occurred before Warner, with succor from centrist Republicans, won $1.4 billion in higher taxes for education, public safety and human services, pushing the current two-year budget to $61 billion.
Despite their sometimes overheated, government-be-damned rhetoric, Republicans, particularly in the conservative House of Delegates, are amassing a record that could make liberal Democrats proud. But it may actually be cause for embarrassment.
For example, in the nine-year period covered by the JLARC analysis, general government spending exploded 108 percent, increasing annually by an average of 8.8 percent. This is more than nuts-and-bolts expenditures, such as paying a work force that’s barely grown, purchasing gasoline for a vast fleet of automobiles and trucks and keeping lights burn- ing in state office buildings.
The two biggest drivers are items that have become synonymous with the Republican ascendancy: the cost of reimbursing localities for lost revenue under the car-tax rollback, and interest payments on state bonds.