Here’s a dirty little secret about Rhode Island’s state budget: it’s actually a pretty stable document.
The news media has a bias toward conflict – stability makes lousy copy – and so coverage of this week’s House Finance budget played up its differences from what Gov. Lincoln Chafee proposed back in January. No corporate tax change! $15 million less in local aid! 6,500 off RIte Care!
Each of those policy choices absolutely matter, especially to those who are directly affected by them. And when you’re talking about spending more than $8 billion over 12 months in a place with 1 million people, even relatively small changes can add up to many millions of dollars. The budget is definitely important.
Still, the year-to-year changes in the budget often aren’t as significant as the headlines imply, because much of the spending is effectively on autopilot. This year’s budget will probably be $8,101,600,000; next year’s will probably be $8,216,800,000. That’s $115 million more – a lot of money! – but still only a 1% difference: