State Debt A Problem Well In Advance Of Great Recession

I saw a chart today that took me aback. At the Cato @ Liberty blog, a look at aggregate state debt over the last decade:

I had well expected that state governments were growing their budget in accordance with the boom economies of the past decade (especially rising property tax collections through the boom), but hadn’t realized that they were piling on loads of debt ON TOP OF that new spending.

Of course, I don’t labor under the false belief that state governments are fiscally responsible, but one would have thought that they might have been happy to spend merely the new windfalls they were reaping in revenues, not far outstrip those windfalls with added debt-fueled spending.

Napoleon said “Never ascribe to malice that which can be adequately explained by incompetence.” I certainly think there’s incompetence involved, but I’m not sure the explanation is adequate.