As Gov. Rick Perry moves himself closer to a possible run for president, his fiscal record in Texas is sure to draw more scrutiny.
In Sunday's paper, we took a look at how Perry's record of controlling state spending compared to his predecessor, George W. Bush. We used data supplied by the state-funded Legislative Budget Board.
State spending has more than doubled since Bush first took office in 1995 but the growth is far smaller once the numbers are adjusted for inflation and the state's booming population growth.
During the period that Bush was governor, total state spending rose 13.3 percent every two years on average. Adjusting the spending figures for population growth and inflation, that growth rate was 2.3 percent.
Perry took the reins in December 2000. From then until 2011, spending increased an average of 16.8 percent every two years. Once adjusted for population and inflation, that rate falls to 4.2 percent, higher than it was under Bush.
State lawmakers passed their 2012-13 budget this year. It's the first one to cut overall spending since at least 1968. The corresponding state estimates of adjusted spending for that budget are not yet available.
Perry's office and many budget experts say the governor exerts the most control over general revenue spending. That's about half of the budget and is fed largely by state taxes and fees.
When looking solely at general revenue spending, the trends match better with the fiscal conservative image Perry promotes. Though general revenue spending has grown with nearly every budget passed since Perry took office, it actually fell over the last decade an average of 0.6 percent every two years once adjusted for inflation and population. It rose an average of 2.2 percent during Bush's tenure.
"He's the only Texas governor since World War II that has cut general revenue spending," Perry spokeswoman Catherine Frazier said.
That distinction is one that Perry has touted repeatedly in recent years, from campaign commercials to the biography on the Governor's Office website.
The competing figures illustrate the complexity of assigning credit or blame for a state budget to any individual elected official. Both governors also operated under different national economic conditions and different political environments.
We've got more details in our story here.
And below is a graph showing how state spending has changed since the 1994-1995 budget that Bush inherited when he first took office. The red line shows the growth of total spending adjusted for population and inflation. The yellow line shows the change in adjusted general revenue spending.
*Budget figures for the 2010-11 and 2012-13 budgets are estimated.
Source: Legislative Budget Board and the Comptroller of Public Accounts. Adjusted figures for the just-passed 2012-13 budget are not yet available.
Take a closer look at the chart and the data behind it here.