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Questioning Palin's budget numbers

Posted: Sunday, December 16, 2007

This is in response to "Palin rolls out 4% budget increase" in the Juneau Empire on Dec. 11.

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State workers are divided into roughly 1,100 different job classes, ranging from able-bodied seaman to weights and measures technician. There's no job class titled mathematician, and none titled statistician. There are job classes called statistical clerk (worker must be a high school graduate and know how to count) and statistical technician I and II (some college math courses required), but these job classes do not generally conduct rigorous mathematical analysis. Maybe the lack of a mathematician or statistician job class is why the state can't do statistics right.

Gov. Sarah Palin is advertising her fiscal year 2009 budget as a departure "from 14 percent annual increases that we've been seeing." Her folks base that number on the fiscal year 2003-07 general fund appropriations. For purposes of this discussion, we'll all conveniently ignore the fact that general funds are less than half the total budget.

Fiscal year 2003-07 is an unrepresentative data set. Her folks cherry-picked the numbers to make it look good. The fiscal year 2004 general fund appropriation was lower than average, and the fiscal year 2007 general fund appropriation was significant higher than average. A more reasonable representative data set might be, say, fiscal year 2001-08. The average annual general fund increase for that time period was 4.8 percent, not 14 percent. When you factor in inflation, which averaged 2.57 percent during that time, the rampant 14 percent annual growth in state government is really a lackluster 2.2 percent.

If Palin's folks couldn't get these numbers right, one wonders what else they added up wrong. Maybe we should take a look at the numbers behind Annette Kreitzer's claim that state salaries are the best the state can afford.

Craig Wilson

Juneau



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