Following Arizona’s money

by Byron Schlomach, Ph.D.
Goldwater Institute
Nine hundred and twenty dollars per second. That’s how fast Arizona’s state government spends our tax money. Following the recent update of the Goldwater Institute’s spending clock, people asked how we arrived at that particular number. Allow me to explain.

Nine hundred and twenty dollars per second is $29 billion divided by 31,536,000–total state spending divided by the number of seconds in a typical 365-day year. The media always talk about the state’s General Fund spending, which is officially budgeted at $9.4 billion this year. But when you add up all of the funds available for state government to spend, the total grows to $29 billion.

The General Fund consists of money mainly from state sales and income taxes and can theoretically be used for any purpose at the discretion of the legislature. There are other appropriated funds, such as licensing fees, that the legislature also has discretion over, currently budgeted at $3 billion. Yet another category is “non-appropriated” spending, much of it in somewhat self-supported government functions like universities and state parks, where spending is estimated at $6.8 billion. Then, there is federal funding. This year, federal money passed through the state is expected to total $10.4 billion.

Arizona’s GDP in 2008 was $249 billion. That means about 12 percent of the state’s GDP is determined by spending through state government, a sector that hotel and casino magnate Steve Wynn recently pointed out is not the productive part of our economy. Arizona must reduce state government and give private, more productive sectors the opportunity to grow our shrinking economy.
Byron Schlomach, Ph.D., is the director of the Goldwater Institute’s Center for Economic Prosperity.


  1. Oh my god! You are not pointing to Steve Wynn who has received millions of dollars in subsidies from the state of Nevada and Las Vegas as someone who can legitimately complain about state spending not being productive.

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