How much does the state government spend every year?

$52 billion in total state spending according to the Massachusetts audited Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for fiscal year 2009 published by the Comptroller of the Commonwealth.

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

That’s $74 billion total, or about $21,765 per Massachusetts taxpayer – every year.

The opponents of Question 3 try to pretend that total state spending is only $28 billion, or $30 billion. But this is just what’s called the Statutory Budget. There are several other state budgets. Total spending is $52 billion according to the government’s own audited financial statement.

When confronted with this fact, the opponents of Question 3 (all of whom 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.”

First of all, only about $8 billion of the $52 billion is labeled as “transfers.”  Of that “transferred” amount, about $4 billion is used to pay lottery prize money.

Politicians may call it a “transfer,” but paying lottery prize money is an expenditure of the state lottery.  We agree that this is a non-discretionary expense that must be paid (so long as the state is in the gambling business). That still leaves $48 billion from which politicians can cut $2.34 billion.

Secondly, the remaining $4 billion of “transfers” is put into various funds and eventually spent. The fact remains: Massachusetts state government spends a whopping $52 billion – every year. (listen to former Secretary of Finance Charlie Baker’s explanation here)

Opponents of Question 3 don’t want you to find out this figure because it makes the size of the Question 3 sales tax rollback look small. Rolling back the sales tax to 3% cuts state spending just $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 (MTF) – 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, including Question 3. They advocate for and defend high government spending.

We call on members of the media to do what good reporters should do: dig, then dig some more, until they uncover total government spending. Don’t even take the word of the Comptroller’s office for it, which since 2010, took down the 2009 report from its website. In its place is a pared down report that does not reveal total spending.

Above all, do not rely on the phony reports of groups such as MTF, which consistently under reports total state government spending.

The fact that politicians and other opponents of Question 3 misrepresent and cover up almost half of total state government spending is 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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