How Much Did Pennsylvania Spend Last Year?

Here is a simple question: Given we have closed the books on last year’s state budget for three weeks, how much did  Pennsylvania spend last year?  Unfortunately, the answer isn’t so clear.

Over at Capitolwire (subscription), Pete DeCoursey notes that the Senate, and the Rendell administration, increased the previous year’s spending total to $28.1 billion. (It has previously been pegged at $27.8 billion, following a $28.3 billion enacted budget and $500 million in spending “freezes”). The change was based on counting welfare spending which was incurred and due in 2008-09 to the 2008-09 budget.  While that seems like a good accounting standard, in reverses the Rendell administration’s policy of the past several years, of counting June welfare spending in the following fiscal year.

We noticed this change too when looking at the spreadsheets, and explanation was certainly needed.  (Sidenote: while we have put together an Excel spreadsheet of the previous budget proposals, we have not updated with either the House Republicans’, House Democrats’, or revised Senate Republicans’ plan, because these plans are in flux, all three budget handouts were in different formats with different ways of accounting for stimulus funds, and that’s a lot of work.  If there is high demand for that, we could do so).

As Capitolwire also notes, some were concerned about his accounting change, because the Senate GOP has said one of their goals with the new budget is “to spend less than last year”.  But Sen. Corman says that won’t matter,

because it would take more revenue than we [Senate Republicans] will approve to pay for that level of spending.