State government is spending too much money, says a leading Republican lawmaker, as he touts an analysis of his own, which shows that state spending has increased at nearly twice the national inflation rate over the past 14 years.

But two independent budget analysts say that the figures released by state Rep. Lance Harris, R-Alexandria, overstate the growth in state spending.

In fact, under an alternative measure endorsed by both LSU economics professor Jim Richardson and Steve Winham, who spent a dozen years as the state’s budget director under Republican and Democratic governors, the increase in state spending over the past 14 years has actually trailed the expansion of the state’s economy over that period of time. Those figures could suggest that the state ought to be spending more.

The difference in views is no academic exercise since Harris has been citing his study to advance his argument that state legislators should rely only on cuts when they begin meeting Monday in a 10-day special session to fill a midyear $304 million budget gap. Harris leads the 58-Republican delegation in the House, so his views hold considerable sway. Other Republican House members have repeated Harris’ comments to call for greater spending cuts.

Gov. John Bel Edwards, however, is asking lawmakers to take $119 million from the state rainy day fund — the maximum allowed — to reduce the amount of cuts needed to close the $304 million shortfall. If lawmakers don’t take the full $119 million, Edwards warns, among the entities likely to suffer cuts are the state’s colleges and universities, K-12 schools and programs that assist families with developmentally disabled children get through the day.

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