In recent years, much attention and scrutiny has been placed on the use of “earmarks” in the Federal budget. The federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB) describes an earmark as “funds provided by the Congress for projects or programs where the congressional direction (in bill or report language) circumvents the merit-based or competitive allocation process, or specifies the location or recipient, or otherwise curtails the ability of the Executive Branch to properly manage funds.”
In North Carolina, with a much smaller budget, specific earmarking of projects in the budget is not as widespread, but still prevalent. For example, the Civitas Institute last year identified $205.4 million in “pork barrel” spending in the FY2007-2008 North Carolina budget. North Carolina, however, does not have the same earmarking system as the Federal government. Here, members file individual bills as placeholders or requests to denote their specific earmark. However, not all earmarks in the final budget come from filed bills – some are directly inserted by legislative leaders behind closed doors and without public scrutiny until the final version of the budget is made available and is unable to be changed or amended.
During the current “short” session of the General Assembly, more than $646 million worth of earmark spending has been requested by the North Carolina House as identified by The Civitas Institute. The total for the two year budget cycle comes to roughly $1.5 billion in House earmark requests. Click here for the list of each earmark bill introduced by Representative. Click here for the complete list of earmarking bills introduced in the NC House in 2007 and 2008.
Adding the two-year Senate earmark total brings the two-year General Assembly total earmark requests to more than $2.7 billion.
Top Five Representatives in Terms of Earmark Dollar Requests Over the Last 2 Years:
- Edith Warren (D- Pitt) $466,493,865
- Marian McLawhorn (D- Pitt) $363.649,955
- Joe Tolson (D- Edgecombe) $316,208,066
- Arthur Williams (D- Beaufort) $287,086,221
- Alma Adams (D- Guilford) $183,782,476
Top Ten Most Ridiculous House Earmark Requests (from the last two sessions):
- $1 Million for one new soccer field in the town of Holly Ridge – estimated population: 730. H1048 (Grady, R-Onslow)
- $55,000 for a “national banjo museum and an informational clearinghouse for banjo-related data” in Rockingham Co. H1331 (Cole, D-Rockingham)
- $150,000 for the preservation of the “historic Old Pickle Shed” in the town of Faison. H286 (Tucker, D-Duplin)
- $3 Million for an East Coast Drag Racing Hall of Fame in Henderson. H297 (Crawford, D-Granville)
- $1.75 Million to pay for the city of New Bern’s 300th Anniversary celebration in 2010. H1540 (Wainwright, D-Craven; Underhill, D-Craven)
- $25,000 for the outdoor drama “Horn in the West.” H2080 (Tarleton, D-Watauga)
- $3,580,000 in funds toward “voter-owned elections.” H2649. This bill may not meet the standard criteria for an earmark, except for a blatant conflict of interest. The bill’s sponsor, Melanie Goodwin (D-Richmond) is the wife of Wayne Goodwin, currently running for Insurance Commissioner, and his campaign would be eligible to receive VOE financing.
- $288,619 for repairs and upgrades to the Riverside Golf Course in Robeson Co. H300 (Sutton, D-Robeson; Yongue, D-Scotland; Pierce, D-Scotland)
- $100,000 for a pool and recreation center in Smithfield. H733 (Daughtry, R- Johnston)
- $8.5 Million for improvements to the Western NC Agricultural Center. H2663 (Goforth, D-Buncombe; Haire, D-Jackson; Fisher, D-Buncombe; Thomas, R-Buncombe)
The methodology used to identify earmark legislation in this report is based on the above OMB description. A legislator is credited with requesting the earmark if they are one of the primary sponsors of the legislation.
Funding for university and community college capital projects were included because those decisions should be made based on consultation with the Boards of Governors, not by the respective power of certain legislators. Also included were monies earmarked for specific nonprofit agencies. While the vast majority of these nonprofits are worthy organizations, earmarking funds to specific nonprofits bypasses the normal grant system, which better evaluates program worth, and opens the door for possible corruption and conflicts of interest.