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Friday, January 30, 2009

Who Needs a Special Session When We've Got Spreadsheets?

The stimulus package working its way through Congress includes $167 million in state budget assistance for South Dakota. An expert on SDPB this morning says much of the money will be tagged for education, so it can't plug all the holes in our budget. State budget officer Jason Dilges is also saying the Legislature might need a special session to incorporate any federal aid into the state budget.

Hold on: I'm skeptical on both claims. If a big pot of money (yes, it's a handout, more welfare for South Dakota) is headed our way, even if every penny is designated for education, I can't believe some creative financial whizzes in Pierre couldn't find some way to shift that money around to cover the other gaps in the budget. (Just ask the shell-gamers at the Board of Regents: surely they can come up with a creative idea like their payday shifting scheme.)

And a special session? No way! As I understand it, President Obama and the Congressional leaders have set a due date of February 13 for final passage and signing. The legislative session runs through March 13. That's 28 days, kids. Our legislators usually put together the budget in the final week anyway. We know it's coming, we know it's going to be big, and we know John Thune ultimately isn't going to stop it (though he's getting good press being cranky about it).

So here's what you do: make a spreadsheet. Enter every budget line item in Columns A and B to reflect a budget with absolutely no stimulus package assistance. In Column C, you enter percentages that reflect what chunk of the coming stimulus would be assigned to each budget item (those need to add up to 100%). At the top of Column D, enter $167M, for the amount of federal stimulus in the pending federal legislation. Heck, you might not even need to enter the number manually: you could probably just link that cell via Web query to some web page at the CBO or the White House to automatically update the budget aid figure. Then in the rest of Column D, you enter simple formulas that calculate the post-stimulus funding for each item.

Then, the day President Obama signs the bill, we simply open up the spreadsheet, print Column D (well, better include the line item descriptions from Column A), and pow: there's your budget.

See? Not hard. No special session needed.

You know, my Excel students at DSU have their final exam on Feb. 18. This sounds like a really good final exam....


  1. Cory, If you understood debt and deficit, you would not want the stimulus package. More importantly if you understood the Federal Reserve, how it was established, and who actually owns it, even you would want to own a gun or be able to get one in a hurry. First lesson, check out brillig.com:80/debt_clock/faq.html Lets see how you do with that and then I'll forward the more complicated stuff regarding the Federal Reserve to you. Hey, I thought you would enjoy the following. If you don't know God, don't make stupid remarks!!!!!!!! A United States Marine was attending some college courses between assignments. He had completed missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. One of the courses had a professor who was an avowed atheist and a member of the ACLU. One day the professor shocked the class when he came in. He looked to the ceiling and flatly stated, "God, if you are real, then I want you to knock me off this platform. I'll give you exactly 15 minutes. The lecture room fell silent. You could hear a pin drop. Ten minutes went by and the professor proclaimed, "Here I am God. I'm still waiting." It got down to the last couple of minutes when the Marine got out of his chair, went up to the professor, and cold-cocked him; knocking him off the platform. The professor was out cold. The marine went back to his seat an sat there, silently. The other students were shocked and stunned and sat there looking on in silence. The professor eventually came to, noticeably shaken, looked at the Marine and asked, "What the heck is the matter with you? Why did you do that?" The Marine calmly replied, "God was too busy today protecting America's soldiers who are protecting your right to say stupid stuff and act like an idiot. So, He sent me." Given the whole professor and aetheist thing, I thought you would enjoy that.

  2. Searaven: so Hubert Hoover was right? Do nothing? How American!

    Two anecdotes: The strategic bombing survey after WWII revealed German war production increased every month of the war until its surrender May 45. The point was not that strategic bombing was a failure; rather the point was how much more would have war production increased without strategic bombing. The stimulus won't "win" / fix the economy; rather it will mitigate the worst of the depression. And yes, we will need more stimulus.

    The Marine in your myth was guilty of assault. He would need services of an ACLU attorney to defend his rights. The ACLU was called into the German occupation by Ike, et. al., to help with re-establishing civil rights, to counter reestablishment of fascist militarism.

  3. Well, Stephanie replied to my e-mail asking her to vote against this pork-laden "stimulus" bill with a form letter including the following statement: "Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, South Dakota would be eligible to receive approximately $236 million in total infrastructure investment including: $198 million for highways and bridges, $11.8 million for transit capital, and $28.5 million for the Clean Water projects."

    I looked really close, but I never saw education mentioned in that at all. And this is straight from her own mouth.

    I wouldn't hold my breath waiting to spend any of this money either. Most of it isn't targeted immediately from what I've heard, and with all the red tape involved with any gov't giveaways or projects, by the time we get to use the money, the recession will probably be done.

  4. Anon, Yes, the ACLU is a very valuable resource. I remember when the Sara Palin image was hanging by her neck from a rope. Al, Jessie, and the ACLU were all over it. As for attorneys, there are quite a few holding jobs in the Senate and Congress and doing a hell of a job! Right?

  5. I think the state officials are getting a little over-eager in planning for their piece of the latest pork pie. Most of it isn't even supposed to be spent for a couple of years (right before the next election, humm.....?!). So I don't think a special session this year will be necessary. And from what I read later, who knows if SD will even get any of it. More worthy states (i.e. California) will probably be deemed to need it more because they don't even try to balance their budgets. So, Stephanie, don't claim that you voted for it because SD will get a big chunk of the pie when it obviosuly hasn't even been decided apparently. And if we do get it, it will be directed to certain things and not others.


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