The Civitas Institute has identified more than a billion dollars in new pork and earmark spending, debt and future obligations in the FY 2008-09 Budget. This is in addition to the $45.8 million of embedded pork spending approved by the previous year’s budget.
Most citizens are now familiar with the term “pork” as being generally wasteful government spending falling well outside the proper scope of government services. Earmark spending is also documented by this study because earmarks represent state funds being directed to locally-focused projects, and reflect the influence of certain lawmakers rather than the merit or necessity of the project itself.
While much of the earmark spending may reflect worthy priorities (i.e. nonprofit organizations, UNC buildings, etc) the specific directional nature of the spending should cause concern. Taxpayer dollars earmarked for specific nonprofits bypasses the normal grant system, while funding for university capital projects that originated with specific appropriations bills ignores proper consultations with the Board of Directors. Such a funding procedure opens the door for corruption and conflicts of interest while suppressing transparency in the budget process.
Also troubling is the massive amount of debt – none of which is subject to voter approval – being accrued to finance pork and earmarked projects as well as the millions that will be required to complete projects that are in the “planning” phase in this year’s budget. All told, more than $700 million in future debt and obligations toward pork and earmarked projects are included in this year’s budget. Such reckless spending will tie the hands of future budget-makers, forcing them to either cut other spending priorities or thrust tax hikes upon North Carolina citizens.
Following is a summary of some of the major findings of our study:
- New “pork” spending for FY 2008-09 totaled $159 million.
- $76 million in current year spending
- $82.8 million in debt spending that will have to be repaid plus interest in the future
- More than $969 million dedicated to “earmark” projects
- $130 million in current year spending
- $839.5 million of new debt and future obligations to complete planned projects
- All told, more than $1.1 billion dollars in current spending, authorized debt and committed future spending to complete projects are classified as pork or earmark spending
- Some of the most egregious spending includes:
- $25.5 million for corporate welfare programs
- $15 million for a park in Fayetteville
- $6.6 million for the Muttamuskeet Lodge renovations
- $1.3 million for a Museum of Forestry
- $900,000 for a horse complex in Raleigh
- $500,000 to market and promote a small-college basketball tournament in Charlotte
- $450,000 increase in funding for the North Carolina Symphony
- New debt is authorized without voter approval for several earmark projects, including:
- $8.1 million for Western North Carolina Agriculture Center and Farmer’s Market improvements
- $4.3 million for a research oyster hatchery at UNC Wilmington
- $3.7 million for the Southeastern North Carolina Agriculture Center Pavilion to host livestock events
Download these files for complete lists.