‘Cuts’ of $819 million are actually a 17 percent spending increase

Victor Joecks

Last week I wrote a commentary describing how a 10 percent "cut" in state spending equals a double-digit spending increase.

And today's story by Ed Vogel in the Las Vegas Review-Journal on proposed budget "cuts" is the perfect example of what I was referring to.

State agencies have proposed cutting their budgets by $819 million in the coming two-year budget period, Assembly Speaker-elect John Oceguera said Tuesday.

Stop right there. Let's take a look at the Agency Request budgets and the supposed "spending cut."

General Fund spending FY 10, 11: $6,421,152,167
Requested General Fund spending FY 12, 13: $8,345,385,970
General Fund spending FY 12, 13 with "10 percent" cut: $7,526,068,816

Yep, in the last biennium, General Fund spending was $6.4 billion, and after a "cut" of $819 million, General Fund spending would be $7.5 billion, or a 17 percent increase.

See what's happening here? Government officials aren't mentioning that they want a 30 percent spending increase before talking about the 10 percent "cuts."

Only in government is a 17 percent spending increase labeled a budget "cut."

Now, I have no problem if speaker-to-be Oceguera says, "I believe Nevada's General Fund spending needs to be $7.5 billion (or $8.1 billion)." That's a debatable proposition.

The problem is that Oceguera is attempting to assume $2 billion in new spending before he bemoans $819 billion in "cuts."

You can't have an honest debate with someone using incorrect assumptions. If Oceguera or another lawmaker wants to argue that Nevada needs a $2 billion spending increase, because of X, Y or Z (sorry, I'm not going to give the other side arguments), fine. Let's have a debate on that.

But pretending that a $2 billion spending increase doesn't exist when you talk about $819 million in cuts is dishonest and distorts reality for the general public.
Before engaging in a debate on Nevada's budget, believers in limited government need to make sure that "cuts" and "spending increases" are defined accurately.