In Spite of Positives, Budget Loaded with Pork

  • North Carolina’s new budget is, on balance, more good than bad
  • However, a staggering number of earmarks and pork spending for local projects permeate the budget and abuse taxpayer money
  • Local projects should not be used to garner political support among constituents at home or in the legislature in Raleigh

The new North Carolina budget has many positive elements, with notable tax cuts and school choice expansion. On balance, there is more good than bad.

Despite that, one area that warrants significant cleanup and improvement is the extensive pork spending.

During this budget process, legislators had unprecedented funds to work with. With a $6 billion surplus and ongoing debate with the Democratic governor, we expected to see pork in the state budget. Note that the pork referenced here does not include the $5.4 billion in federal coronavirus aid.

Unfortunately, however, the pork spending is unfettered. “Pork,” short for “pork-barrel spending,” refers to money elected officials allocate to local pet projects to bolster their political standing on the taxpayer dime.

Many of these projects sound nice, and some would benefit the local community. Yet to pay for them with state funds is inappropriate and a misuse of your tax dollars. These projects should be funded by local governments, if at all. And while some of these projects are nonrecurring, a sustainable option to the recurring alternative, many should not exist in this budget.

This rampant spending reveals vulnerabilities in the arguments from the left that the state government does not have sufficient revenue.

The John Locke Foundation’s Senior Fellow for the Center for Effective Education, Bob Luebke, commented on the pork in this budget saying, “Forty million on athletic facilities? That money could help pay for about 560 more teachers. If schools want to spend money on athletic facilities instead of teachers, they have no business complaining about a teacher shortage.”

Moreover, under state law, funding public school facilities is the responsibility of local governments. State funding for local school athletic facilities would count as pork.

Below find just a sampling of the extensive pork in the Fiscal Year 2021-23 budget:

Airports:

  • $127 million for capital improvements to 18 local airports

Courthouses:

  • More than $130 million to 18 county courthouses

Dams:

  • More than $60 million to eight local dams

Hospitals:

  • More than $50 million to 10 hospitals

Historic sites:

  • More than $20 million to historic sites, including $6.1 million to purchase 194 acres in Chowan County for a new historic site

K-12 athletic facilities:

  • $40 million to 19 high schools and the Department of Public Instruction to improve athletic facilities

Counties, cities, and towns:

  • 124 handouts to localities for various capital improvements, including $9.5 million to the town of Columbus, $300,000 to the town of Farmville, $250,000 to Washington County, and $3.25 million to the city of Statesville

Campgrounds, playgrounds, parks, and trails:

  • Funds 64 local projects loosely related to parks, including $4 million to improve the Bean Shoals Trail at Pilot Mountain, $1 million for a playground in Brunswick County, and $2.5 million to improve Rutherford County’s Forest City soccer complex

Other projects:

Nearly 300 projects qualify as “other” in the budget’s money report. This nomenclature alone alludes to a misuse of funds. These handouts go to fire stations, agricultural centers, memorials, sheriff’s offices, regional theaters, boat ramps, sidewalk repairs, landfills, farmers markets, libraries, and museums, to name a few categories. Some examples include:

  • $250,000 to Iredell County for a new boat for the sheriff’s office
  • $100,000 for Camden County boat ramps
  • $25 million to the US Performance Center in Kannapolis
  • $100,000 to Topsail Beach for equipment
  • $10,000 to the town of Sanford for a mural
  • $12,000 to the town of Bryson City for an ATV
  • $70,000 to Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing, Inc. for equipment

This excessive amount of pork spending shows increased willingness to misuse taxpayer money. Whether for political gain at home or in the legislature, pork spending is a misuse of taxpayer money and must be reined in.

The post In Spite of Positives, Budget Loaded with Pork appeared first on John Locke Foundation.

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Author: Jon Sanders


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