The Civitas Institute has identified $205.4 million in new “pork barrel” spending in the FY2007-2009 expansion budget. In addition, the budget contains $155 million in new debt authorized for pork projects.
Pork barrel spending is here defined according to the following criteria:
- Spending on projects that benefit a specific area, typically the area of the representative requesting the funding.
- Funding for items that do not fall under the proper scope of government services.
- “Slush funds” that consist of monies distributed to preferred groups to be spent at the group’s discretion.
- Money forwarded to private nonprofit organizations that should be raising funds from the public, rather than receiving taxpayer subsidies. Not all money forwarded to nonprofits is identified as pork. Typically if the money is new, non-recurring spending given to a nonprofit that performs a service also performed by other nonprofits, it is labeled as pork.
In spite of Governor Mike Easley’s (D) claim that this year’s budget is “a sound budget that invests in our future [and] protects the public health and safety,” our own analysis has found that the budget did not facilitate long-term investment for even basic needs – such as for the construction and repair of roads and schools.
Instead, the budget spent millions on unproven programs – such as More at Four, Learn & Earn, and N.C. Kids Care. The state’s real priorities, in other words, are not being funded as effectively as they could. In turn, millions of taxpayer dollars are being wasted on pork barrel projects such as the following:
- A combined $25 million over the next two years for the N.C. Research Campus at Kannapolis. While this is a public-private partnership, the public share of funding has increased far beyond what was originally promised.
- $14 million for the “One North Carolina Fund.” Critics call this fund Governor Easley’s “walking around money,” because the fund is used for special handouts to preferred corporations as part of the governor’s business recruitment efforts.
- $14 million from the Highway Fund for an “economic development” fund. This basically amounts to a slush fund for the 14 members of the Board of Transportation. Each member receives $1 million to spend as they see fit.
- More than $10 million in recurring funds requested by Representative Mickey Michaux (D-Durham) for nonprofit organizations in his district. Groups receiving tax dollars include the N.C. Minority Support Center and the N.C. Community Development Initiative.
- $6.3 million for the N.C. Museum of History Chronology Exhibit Phase I.
- $5 million for a “Western Agricultural Center” arts and crafts building and livestock show arena.
- $5 million over the next two years for “operating support” for North Carolina’s aquariums.
- $3.5 million for the N.C. Center for Automotive Research – for vaguely described research purposes.
- $3 million for an “Eastern Agricultural Center” horse barn.
- $3 million for “N.C. Zoo Plains Barns and Paddocks.”
- $2 million to the Johnson & Wales University – a private university in Charlotte that “specializes in the culinary and hospitality industries.” It’s no secret this money is being allocated to fulfill a promise made by former Speaker Jim Black (D-Mecklenburg).
- $2.1 million as requested by Representative James Crawford (D-Granville) for the “Kerr-Tar Regional Economic Development Corporation,” which specifically targets Crawford’s district.
- $1.2 million to “provide transportation services for annual or semiannual trade shows of international significance.” In other words, a chauffeur service for conventions.
- $1 million for cArtwheels, an arts program to expose public school students to professional performing arts.
- $500,000 for an “Equine Industry Study” that will “assess the numbers, composition, and value of the equine industry in North Carolina.”
- $300,000 for “Shellfish Restoration Funds.” Among other things, this money is to be used to “conduct a pilot project to protect oyster sanctuaries from cownose ray and skate predation.”
- $250,000 for the nonprofit Jewish Heritage Foundation to produce a documentary on Jewish life in North Carolina.
- $200,000 for the “North Carolina in the World Project.” This program focuses on the vague goal of “improving students’ knowledge and skills about the world.”
$155 million in new debt not subject to voter approval:
- $120 million of certificates of participation debt authorized for the “Land for Tomorrow and Waterfront Access” program. This money will be used to preserve land for open space use – a function that should be performed by the private sector. An unintended consequence of this project is that it will drive up the price of private property.
- Another $35 million of certificates of participation debt authorized for an “education and visitors center” at Tryon Palace. North Carolina’s elected officials continue to display a clear lack of fiscal discipline. Taxpayers should be aware of how their money is being spent, and decide if they approve of our lawmakers’ decisions. Once citizens become more informed about some of the lesser-known budget expenditures, they will be in a better position to hold state legislators accountable.
Download the complete itemized report.