House Budget Spreadsheet

Two versions of a spreadsheet comparing the FY12 House Ways and Means budget to prior years are available:

  • the long form includes summaries of the the data and some analysis breaking out local aid, health care and debt service;
  • the short form includes the history by line item (no summarization) and is formatted for easier printing and small screen viewing.

The historical data in the spreadsheets come from the Administration and Finance (“ANF”) website.  The FY12 budget data was transferred and merged electronically from the House Ways and Means budget document.

The spreadsheet totals do check to the ANF website and to the main handout on the budget from House Ways and Means.  The one area of discrepancy is in the FY11 projected spending total, where there are several slightly different numbers in different documents.

Caution should be used when using the spreadsheet to compare broad categories such as health care and transportation across years because the expenditure data from the ANF website do not consistently include interfund transfers done in outside sections.

To get a better handle on what transfers might not appear in the data from ANF, I asked the Comptroller of the Commonwealth if they would prepare a reconciliation for Fiscal 2010 between their statutory basis financial reports (“SBFR”, the final record of budgetary activity) and the ANF data. Their spreadsheet reconciliation explains $2.9 billion in spending appearing in the SBFR, but not appearing in the ANF data. Roughly half of the $2.9 billion difference is accounted for by the transfer from the general fund to cover pension costs. This scheduled transfer is taken out of the revenue flow in the summary section of the budget; it is not a budget line item. Most of the rest consists of transportation and health care transfers typically effected in outside sections. Some of the differences reflect wash transactions “grossed-up” in the SBFR (e.g at page 53).

Spot checks of the ANF spreadsheet data suggest that the outside section information is manually and incompletely maintained. For example, line item 1595-0381, transfer to the stabilization fund, does appear in the ANF spreadsheet and has an FY08 value, but lacks an FY10 value (which the SBFR shows as $185 million).

Because of the particular importance of health care spending, I asked ANF to identify in a spreadsheet the components of historical health care spending.

Finally, the Comptroller provided a spreadsheet showing the line items included in the SBFR for the 2007 through 2009.

In summary, it appears that excluding interfund transfers and wash transactions, the data from the ANF website is fully consistent with the SBFR. One has to backout the transfers and washes from both sources to reconcile because ANF has some of them only some of the time. For a fully reconciled and unduplicated view of the state’s spending, one has to go to the Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports, which, unfortunately, appear only ofter the close of the fiscal year. The Mass Taxpayers Foundation and the Budget and Policy Center offer analyses which be more current.

Published by Will Brownsberger

Will Brownsberger is State Senator from the Second Suffolk and Middlesex District.