We were a little taken a back when we saw Monday morning that this year's total state budget is shaping up to be almost $132 billion. All we'd been hearing about was how there was no money -- and yet this year's budget is almost 9 percent bigger than last year's.
As it happens, we shouldn't have been surprised. At all. New York's total budget has been on this path since the late 1990s. Almost any budget is going to grow over time because of inflation. But even when you consider inflation, New York's total budget has been skyrocketing.
We've put together an annotated chart comparing the growth of the total budget to the track of inflation. It's kind of shocking laid out like that.
Discussion, notes and caveats after the jump.
How we made this chart
We started with the total budget number for the 1990-91 fiscal year ($48.9 billion). From there we charted the historical growth of the budget each year (blue line) vs how that number would grow if it only followed the inflation rate (red line).
1996: The only decrease during the last two decades came from a budget that 3.5 months late.
2003: The biggest increase during this period came from process of which the NYT wrote that Governor Pataki "lost control of this one in stunning fashion."
+ There's nothing special about 1990-91 other than the fact that it was 20 years ago. It's not like that was ideal budget number or anything. We just had to start somewhere.
+ Inflation can be tricky to calculate and there are different ways of doing it. The inflation track we used was calculated with Tom Halfhill's inflation calculator, based on retail price inflation.
+ We used the size of the total state budget, which includes money passed along by the federal government. Another way of looking at this would have been to chart the amount of money the state has direct control over (that data is here).
+ In some ways, it's not totally fair to compare the state budget to general retail inflation. A big portion of the state budget goes to Medicaid costs, and health care costs have been increasing much faster than inflation over the last two decades.
+ We used data compiled by the AP from the state Division of the Budget (that list is here) and and we also pulled info from archived media reports.
+ It's very possible we've made mistakes/could have represented things better. We welcome corrections.
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