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.”
During the current “short” session of the General Assembly, more than half a billion dollars worth of earmark spending has been requested by the North Carolina Senate as identified by The Civitas Institute. The total for the two year budget cycle comes to roughly $1.3 billion in Senate earmark requests. Click here for the list of each earmark bill introduced by Senator. Click here for the complete list of earmarking bills introduced in the NC Senate in 2007 and 2008.
Top five dollar Senators in terms of earmark requests over the last 2 years:
Clark Jenkins (D-Edgecombe) $205,174,336
Daniel Clodfelter (D-Mecklenburg) $100,290,237
Walter Dalton (D-Rutherford) $92,250,000
Katie Dorsett (D- Guilford) $80,927,901
Charles Atwater (D-Chatham) $75,344,131
Some of the most outrageous/controversial items:
S270 Construct a “walking trail and a changing room” in the city of Northwest – estimated population of 671. (Soles) – $90,000
S1103 “Construct oyster hatcheries at each of the three North Carolina aquariums.” (Boseman) – $16,300,000
S1355 “Western NC Museum of History,” to be located in Buncombe Co. (Nesbitt) – $20,000,000
S1904 John Coltraine Music Hall (Dorsett) – $500,000
S1965 Stem cell research at 4 universities (Dalton) – $16,000,000
S1990 and S2061 300th anniversary celebrations for town of Beaufort and New Bern (Preston) – $600,000
S2049 Funds for a Mobile Barbershop (Dannelly) – $100,000
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.