How much does the state government spend every year?

$52 billion in total state spending.

That’s on top of another $22 billion that the cities and towns spend which is paid for by your local taxes.

The $52 billion figure is documented on page 164 of the Massachusetts audited Comprehensive Annual Financial Report FY2009:

Look under the first column “2009″ you’ll see “Total expenditures and other financing uses…………. $ 51,789″ (in millions) – i.e., approximately $52 billion.

The opponents of Question 3 try to pretend that total state spending is only $28 billion, or $30 billion. But as you can see, it is $52 billion according to the government’s own audited financial statement.

When confronted with this fact, the opponents of Question 3 (not coincidentally, all are groups that profiteer from high state spending) try to claim that the additional funds that bring the number to $52 billion are “transfers” – and not actually spent. They cite as an example lottery prize money payments as “transfers.” But that is false (and why they duck the question when challenged in debates). Those funds are spent (listen to former Secretary of Finance Charlie Baker’s explanation here).

As is documented in the above Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, spending line items account for almost all of the $52 billion. Only about $8 billion is labeled as “Transfers.”  Of that transferred amount, up to about $4 billion is, according to our opponents, used to pay lottery prize money. This is an expensenot a transfer. The remaining $4 billion appears to be put into various funds and eventually spent.

We agree that lottery prize money is a non-discretionary expense that must be paid (so long as the state is in the gambling business). However, it does not alter the fact that the state spends $52 billion – every year.

Opponents of Question 3 don’t want you to find out that total state spending is a whopping  $52 billion – every year – because it makes the size of the Question 3 sales tax rollback look pretty small. Rolling back the sales tax to 3% cuts state spending $2.34 billion — less than  5% of total state spending. It cuts none of local spending.

Why else would they pretend almost half of state spending doesn’t even exist?

Rather than report the real spending numbers, WBUR radio and others in the media commonly cite figures that they get from politicians. Or from self-described “budget watchdog” groups that represent Special Interests – and which have a vested interest in covering up state spending.

One such group is the Massachusetts “Taxpayers” Foundation – an unregistered business lobby group that represents politically-connected corporations such as banks and medical insurance companies. This group opposes all broad-based tax cuts. They advocate for and defend high government spending.

We call on members of the media to do what good reporters should do: go to the source, the Comptroller’s office, which is responsible for auditing and publishing the state’s financial statements – and reject the phony reports of groups such as MTF.

If politicians and other opponents of Question 3 continue to misrepresent and cover up almost half of total state government spending, we call on voters to take it as one more good reason to cut the legislature’s allowance and vote YES on 3 to roll back the sales tax to 3% on November 2nd.

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