Allen Alley: Oregon spends 61% more than Colorado, yet fewer people

By Allen Alley,
Oregon Transformation Project

We have made great progress with our Oregon Transformation website that examines the Oregon State Budget in a way never done before. Democrats, Republicans and Independents have already begun hundreds of discussions about how to improve our state’s financial condition. Click here to see what others are saying.

One person asked us to compare Oregon and Colorado budgets. So we did. While Colorado has 31% more people than Oregon and Colorado’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is 38% higher than ours, Oregon Government spends an astonishing 61% more than Colorado! We have done a first cut at the analysis. Click here to see the results. We need your help to dive in and add more information.

This demonstrates the difficulty of state-to-state comparisons because the states do not use a standard “chart of accounts”. It would be a great thing for our next Governor to drive standard budget reporting with a couple of peer states. It’s easy to do, dramatically improves transparency, and gives us something to measure ourselves against. This is one example of the many low cost, high return ideas you are helping us develop. Click here to join the discussion.

Speaking of measures. Here is the link to the PEW study from last November putting us in the special group of one of the states in the greatest financial peril with our friends to the south.

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Posted by at 06:00 | Posted in Measure 37 | 16 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Ricky

    This only means that Oregon cares more about the little people, like me.

    • johnb

      learn to take care of yourself. Those of us who have applied ourselves and overcome diversity get tired of paying for the little guy. I was a little guy and climbed out(medical,minority and lack of education and single father).
      So do not feed me a bunch of bull sqeezings about not having opportunity.

      • Anonymous

        I think “Ricky” has fooled you. “Ricky” is Jerry, unless I’m completely mistaken. An amusing case, since he’s merely a buffoon, and not dangerous.

  • Joe Stecklein


  • Reper

    This 61% will likely be cut in half in 2011.

  • Bob Clark

    I don’t think the ruling party Democrats want transparency. The State Attorney General talks of increasing transparency but it is a ruse. For example, He and his office have been awfully slow in divulging their involvment in shaking down certain businesses around the state. Freedom Information Act requests are sat on for months if not years.

    Allan Alley is too good for this state. The folks here in Oregon seem to favor relatively more public controlled wealth than private controlled wealth, implying an over trust in government. I don’t understand such trust in government, having to witness the likes of Mayor Sam Adams here in Portland. I question why people should trust the likes of Sam Adams with their money anymore than say they trust Bank of America with their money. Both need to be viewed with equal skepticism in my view. But most of my neighbors don’t share even half my skepticism of government control. So, I think we shall continue to wallow in continued under performance for the forseeable future unless the “Red Wave” somehow overcomes the state’s current power structure and collective mind set this November 2d.

  • eagle eye

    When you have a disparity like this:

    Labor and Employment $6,441,886,843 $322,164,403

    i.e. Oregon spends $6.4 billion on “Labor and Employment”, whatever that entails, and Colorado spends $322 million, it should raise a flag. That something is not being represented correctly, or at least needs to be explained. It’s simply not very credible on the face of it that there should be such a disparity.

    • Reper

      Eagle Eye, you have a good stat.

  • valley p

    I don’t know how Oregon can spend more than colorado when the census bureau data shows that colorado took in over $8.6 billion a year in taxes while Oregon only took in $7.4 billion in 2009.

    Also, since Colorado’s population is 5 million, and Oregon’s is 3.8 million, doesn’t that mean their population is only 24% larger than ours, not the 38% Alley claims?

    On total state tax per capita, Oregon ranks around 40th. Colorado ranks 48th, though that data is a few years old.

    • Rupert in Springfield

      >I don’t know how Oregon can spend more than colorado when the census bureau data shows that colorado took in over $8.6 billion a year in taxes while Oregon only took in $7.4 billion in 2009.

      Of course you don’t know how this could be. An idiot by definition doesn’t think before blurting out, thus your mistake.

      Look at the census site. Here’s the link to Oregon

      See how it only discusses taxes?

      See how it doesn’t discuss fee, or bonds or other revenues streams like federal timber payments?

      Things like bonds and fees are too complicated to go into here but most adults know about them.

      >Also, since Colorado’s population is 5 million, and Oregon’s is 3.8 million, doesn’t that mean their population is only 24% larger than ours, not the 38% Alley claims?

      No idiot – Alley claimed the population was 31% higher, not 38%.

      So lets do the math

      3.8M plus 31% of 3.8M equals 4.98M

      Got it now?

      No, you probably don’t

      A man who is over 50 and who can’t read in all likelihood can’t do math.

      Why in the world does virtually every post of yours boil down to the fact that you didn’t read what the hell you were responding to?

    • Allen Alley

      Your point is good and also is one of the major reasons I started working on this project. The “tax collected” number only applies to the “General Fund” which only accounts for about a quarter of what the state spends. Lottery Funds, Other Taxes, Federal Funds, Fees (Hunting Licenses, Gas Tax, Mileage Fees, Licensing Fees…) are not included. Here is a link on our site to a state document that pretty clearly lays all of this out. You will have to register to see it but it is really easy to register. We would welcome your comments on the site as well.

      Start by looking at the pie chart at the bottom of page 1. These numbers are for two years.

      *General Fund $13.3 Billion* (Mostly Income Taxes)
      *Lottery Funds $1 Billion*
      *Federal Funds $15.5 Billion* (Up dramatically but what do we do with the programs funded with these dollars when the Feds pull back on funding? Or will they just keep deficit spending?)
      *Other Funds $30 Billion* (All of the other Taxes and Fees that you just don’t realize are being included.)

      Hope this helps.


  • Willy

    So you see that we spend, and yet maybe because our tax revenue is doing good.

  • RN

    The reason why Colorado spends less is because they are forced to with the Taxpayers Bill of Rights Spending Cap. They can’t spend faster than population and inflation. It has made all the difference in how they budget.

  • Ricky

    All I know is that I hope and pray every day that Oregon keeps spending and spending because I need health care, food stamps, free library videos, gambling couseling (she’s a babe so I keep going but I gamble all the time at the video poker place with the ATM), subsidized housing, free prescription meds, etc.

    Also, I am an artist and I need freedom from work to keep my creative juices flowing. I do this by scamming the system, going on and off unemployment all the time ( I just get a friend to fake hire me to do a sculpture or something). I really like France where you can retire at 50 with full benefits if you are an artist. They are really on to something over there.

    Anyway, I really love Oregon as it keeps me whole with the all the free stuff. I used to live in Texas and they don’t have anywhere near as much free stuff so I moved here.

    This place rocks!!!

  • eagle eye

    The more you think about it, the more implausible this is. Oregon spends 1.61 times as much but Colorado has 1.31 times as many people. That means Oregon spend 2.11 times as much per capita. That simply doesn’t make sense — we certainly don’t spend more than twice as much per capita on schools. Something wrong here, or at least Allen Alley needs to give an explanation. This doesn’t match other statistics that I’ve found comparing the total expenditures of government in each state.

  • justin

    I think there is a lot more work to be done. First you cannot ignore the sales tax issue. In Colorado local governments can impose a local sales tax and most do. I suspect that because access to local funding is more limited in Oregon, the state either directly or indirectly has to fund local government functions that are funded by local governments in Colorado.
    Because of difference allocations of functions between state and local government, the only fair way to compare the two states is to compare total state and local spending, and if you did that you would probably find that per capita spending is similar.
    According to the us government website, total state and local spending in Colorado in 09-10 was 91 billion, and in Oregon was 76 billion.

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