Media stories and political spin about government budget “cuts” often need a translator for taxpayers to understand the true picture. It’s common practice to label something a “cut” when in reality it simply means that government is spending less on something than it had previously hoped to spend – even though expenditures on that program have actually increased.
Similarly, if a program’s funding has doubled in just three years, would you say that program is feeling a “budget pinch” or that “budget cuts have taken a toll” on that program?
That’s what we get in this WRAL story about North Carolina’s More at Four program.
Budget cuts have taken a toll on North Carolina’s More at Four Program, which is designed to provide an education to at-risk 4-year-olds, program officials said.
Here’s what those “program officials” left out.
Statewide funding for the More at Four Program has virtually doubled in the past three years. In FY 2006-7, state appropriations for More at Four totalled $84.5 million. In the current fiscal year, the appropriation for More at Four totals $165.6 million (these totals include lottery funds devoted to the program).
What about that “cut”? Budget writers wanted to spend $170.6 million on the program for the current year, but settled for $165.6 million, so it is sold as a $5 million cut – and the media willingly supplies the sympathetic story.
Is it too much to ask for reporters to at least provide a little greater perspective when they talk about a “budget pinch”?