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The Strange World of Emmer Math

After doing a little math, it turns out that real (i.e., inflation-adjusted) per capita state general fund spending has grown by 5.1% from FY 2000-01 to FY 2010-11.  This translates to an average annual growth rate of one-half percent.

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Jeff Van Wychen, Minnesota 2020

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Gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer made a shocking statement on Thursday’s (June 15) Midmorning program on MPR: “Spending has almost doubled in the last decade in this state.”  The statement is false.

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In order for something to double, it must grow by 100%.  From FY 2000-01 to FY 2010-11, total state spending is projected to grow by 62.7%.  (A more common measure of state spending—general fund spending—is projected to increase by 28.7% over this period.)  By no stretch of the imagination can 62.7% be called “nearly 100%” and thus it is not “nearly double.”

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My sister Donna is 63 years old.  According to Emmer math, she is “nearly 100.”  (Sorry, Donna.)  The statement that Donna is “nearly 100” is more accurate than Emmer’s statement that state spending has “nearly doubled,” since Donna at age 63 is closer to 100 than growth in state spending is to 100%.

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Even so, 62.7% growth over the course of a decade might seem like a lot of growth, but let’s dissect this number.  The combined rate of inflation and population growth over the last decade is approximately 54.7%.  After doing a little math, it turns out that real (i.e., inflation-adjusted) per capita state general fund spending has grown by 5.1% from FY 2000-01 to FY 2010-11.  This translates to an average annual growth rate of one-half percent.

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Submitted by Evergreene Digest Contributing Editor Thomas Sklarski

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