Category Archives: census bureau government finances data

The Sold Out Future By State Analysis Reprised

About a year ago I published an analysis based on U.S. Census Bureau government finances data, for all states and all available years from 1972 to 2016, that showed the extent to which each state’s future (with New York City and the rest of NY State analyzed separately, and the District of Columbia also included) has been sold out. Sold out by past decisions, non-decisions, deals and favors with regard to state and local government debt, past infrastructure investment, and under funded and/or retroactively increased public employee pensions.  The analysis was well received, and best of all many people downloaded the spreadsheet with all the data for all 50 states, all the tables, and almost all of the charts.  I always put up a post encouraging people to download the spreadsheets, look at the data themselves, and make up their own minds before reading my subsequent posts and getting my take on it. Generally people had downloaded charts, but not spreadsheets.  Last year that changed.

What I had forgotten last year, however, but have since remembered, is the multi-step process needed to put readable tables, in JPEG format, into the posts on WordPress.   So this year I added the tables to the posts I just completed on state and local government employment and payroll data from the 2017 Census of Governments, and I found that many people had downloaded them.  I don’t know why some people might prefer pictures of numbers to actual numbers, but apparently some people do.  So I plan to rectify last year’s omission of tables – except for people who downloaded the spreadsheet — from the Sold Out Futures posts with a brief reprise.   The data shows that while the blame for our sold out future is widely shared, New York City’s past taxpayers are the most the most blameless in the entire United States.  And New York City’s public employee unions and contractors have been the most unfair to other city residents.  And nowhere else is even close.

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Census of Governments FY 2017: Public Education Finance Data for New York, New Jersey, the U.S. and Selected Other States & Areas

The U.S. Census Bureau released its FY 2017 public education finance data for school districts across the country on May 21st.

https://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2019/school-spending.html

Of the 50 states, New York ($23,091), the District of Columbia ($21,974), Connecticut ($19,322), New Jersey ($18,920) and Vermont ($18,290) spent the most per pupil in 2017.  Of the 100 largest school systems based on enrollment in the United States, the five school systems with the highest spending per pupil in 2017 were New York City School District in New York ($25,199), Boston City Schools in Massachusetts ($22,292), Baltimore City Schools in Maryland ($16,184), Montgomery County School District in Maryland ($16,109), and Howard County School District in Maryland ($15,921).

As is the case most years, I’ve downloaded this data and compiled it into tables showing per student revenues and expenditures by category for New York, New Jersey, and nearby states, four sections of New York State (New York City, the Downstate Suburbs, Upstate Urban Counties and the Rest of NY State), the U.S. average and other places that interest me.  And every individual school district in New York and New Jersey.   And since this is a Census of Governments year, when the Bureau will later be compiling data on every function of every state and local government in the country, I’ve done exactly the same compilation for FY 2007 and FY 1997, to make comparisons over time possible.

As is my custom, I’ve going to provide an explanation of where the data comes from and how it was compiled, and make the spreadsheets with the data, tables and charts available for download, in this post.  Before providing my take on it later, after I’ve thought about it for a while.   So open-minded and curious people (all three or four of you, apparently) are able to download the spreadsheets, look at the numbers and charts, and make up your own mind, rather than having me tell you what it means.  Moreover, I certainly won’t be writing about every individual school district in New York and New Jersey.  But the data is provided in such a way that anyone else can write about their own.

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Sold Out Futures By State: English Version

The Intergenerational Foundation over in the U.K. asked if I could summarize my research on U.S. intergenerational burdens at the state and local government level in 700 words or so.  I somehow managed to squeeze a summary into about 1,700 words, which was subsequently modified for local spelling and syntax.   I generally don’t write posts that short because what is left is a series of statements without all the data, sources, evidence.  But if you are prepared to take my word for things and want my best effort of a brief summary of the situation, you might want to read this.

http://www.if.org.uk/2019/01/15/generational-inequity-in-the-usa-state-and-local-government/

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Sold Out Futures by State: The Sold Out Future Ranking For FY 2016

Over the past three posts I’ve documented how today’s and tomorrow’s Americans have had their future sold out and cashed in with regard to state and local government debts, inadequate past infrastructure capital construction, and retroactively increased and underfunded public employee pensions. Over and above the generational inequities at the federal level in government, in the private sector, and even in many families.  Adding it up, on average today’s and tomorrow’s Americans have inherited a sold-out future due to past state and local government deals and non-decisions equal to 46.9% of their personal income in FY 2016. That is virtually unchanged from the 47.1% I found when I did the same analysis for FY 2012, despite a much stronger economy and another asset price bubble.  A mortgage at nearly half your income, my income, everyone’s income that will have to be carried indefinitely into the future, before any public services are provided, before any public benefits are paid, before taxpayers spend a nickel on their own needs.

Unlike the other generational inequities in our society in the wake of Generation Greed, the state and local government burden is greater or smaller depending on where you live.  It attaches to the people there now, unless they move away from it, and may eventually attach to each place’s real estate, since real estate cannot pick up and move.  This final post in the series will rank states, and New York City and the Rest of New York State separately, based on how sold out their futures are.

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Sold Out Futures By State: Public Employee Pensions in FY 2016

There was a time when a soaring stock market and zero percent interest rates, leading to soaring values of existing fixed-income investments, would have been enough to pull state and local government public employee pension funds out of the hole, at least by the (in my view false) measures used.  Today, however, that hole is so deep that for all state and local government pension funds in the U.S. combined, according to my estimate, later-born generations face a $3.5 trillion debt to pay for public employee pensions as of FY 2016, or 21.8% of the personal income of everyone in the United States.  Over and above any pension benefits that are being earned today. That exceeded the $3 trillion in formal state and local government bonded debt at the time.

More and more, various organizations are coming up with estimates of this combined debt burden, trying to predict which states and localities will be headed for bankruptcy, public service insolvency, or both.   Having pioneered this way of thinking nearly a decade ago with the first “Sold Out Future” ranking, let’s continue the analysis with regard to public employee pensions.

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Sold Out Futures by State in 2016: Debt and Infrastructure

Debt and infrastructure investment are supposed to go together.   State and local governments have operating budgets and capital budgets, and constitutions and charters that say that while money may be borrowed for capital improvements, the operating budget is supposed to be balanced.

During the Generation Greed era, however, that isn’t what has happened. For the U.S. as a whole, total state and local government debt increased from 14.1% of U.S. residents’ personal income in FY 1981 to 22.7% in FY 2010, even as infrastructure investment diminished. This was a matter of generational values, not just a matter of government.  One finds the same trend in business – more debt, less investment – during the same years, with the short term high of having more taken out relative to the amount put in contributing to perpetual political incumbency and sky-high executive pay.  A generation, it seems, has decided to cash in the United States of America and spend to proceeds before it passes away.

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Sold Out Futures: A State-By-State Comparison of State and Local Government Debts, Past Infrastructure Investment, and Unfunded Pension Liabilities

Four years ago I did an analysis of state and local government finance data from the U.S. Census Bureau, for all states and for New York City and the Rest of New York State separately, with data over 40 years, to determine the extent to which each state’s future had been sold out due to state and local government debts, inadequate past infrastructure investment, and underfunded and retroactively enriched public employee pensions.   Having a sold out future means having a future of higher state and local government taxes, diminished public services, and lower pay and benefits for newly hired public employees, and that is what many parts of the United States – most, in reality – are facing.

Over the past month I have re-created that analysis with data through FY 2016, the latest available, rather than just FY 2012, while adding some details.  This post and the next three will show what I found.

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