Due to this year’s substantial budget deficit, North Carolina House and Senate earmark requests are down from recent years, but many of the proposed uses of taxpayer money during a budget “crisis” may still surprise you.
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, a state with a much smaller budget, specific earmarking of projects is not as widespread, but still prevalent. 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 session of the General Assembly, more than $650 million worth of earmark spending has been requested by the North Carolina General Assembly as identified by The Civitas Institute. It is important to note that more than likely none of these requests will actually make it into the final state budget. It is quite telling, however, to examine some of the proposed expenditures deemed appropriate by our elected officials in spite of the substantial budget deficit currently facing state lawmakers. Given the current economic climate, it is crucial to examine the number and amount of earmark spending requests with the understanding that these items constitute the General Assembly’s wish list of appropriations.
Be sure to click on the appropriate links at the bottom of this page for charts detailing total earmark requests from the House and Senate, as well as itemized lists of earmark requests by legislator in each body.
Top Five Representatives in Terms of Earmark Dollar Requests During the 2009 Session:
- Ty Harrell (D – Wake) $69.2 million
- Lucy Allen (D – Franklin) $61.8 million
- Cullie Tarleton (D – Watauga) $56.8 million
- Nelson Dollar (R – Wake) $54.4 million
- Joe Tolson (D – Edgecombe) $47.2 million
Top Five Senators in Terms of Earmark Dollar Requests During 2009 Session:
- Larry Shaw (D Cumberland) $172 million
- Pete Brunstetter (R – Forsyth) $21.8 million
- Malcolm Graham (D – Mecklenburg) $18 million
- Ed Jones (D – Halifax) $15.2 million
- Vernon Malone (D –Wake) $14.97 million
The Dirty Dozen: The Twelve Most Ridiculous Earmark Requests during the 2009 Session
- $1.7 million for land purchase and planning for a research complex at UNC A&T that resembles the Star Fleet training academy from Star Trek. H1623 Jones (D – Guilford)
- $25,000 for the outdoor drama “Horn in the West.” H13 (Tarleton, D-Watauga)
- $500,000 for the John Coltraine Music Hall in High Point. S224 Dorsett (D – Guilford); H178 (Adams D- Guilford), Jones (D – Guilford) and Jeffus (D- Guilford); H 181 Wiley (R – Guilford), Adams (D – Guilford), Jones (D – Guilford)
- $200,000 for additional research of the Queen Anne’s Revenge. H197 Haire (D – Jackson), McLawhorn (D – Pitt), Warren (D – Pitt)
- $1.7 million for the Adopt-a-Trail program. H1120 Insko (D-Orange)
- $21.8 million for zoo renovations. S 676 and S677. Brunstetter (R – Forsyth)
- $50,000 for the Greensboro Symphony. H985 Adams (D – Guilford), Jones (D – Guilford)
- $500,000 for dietary supplement research. H1016 Goforth (D – Buncombe), Fisher (D – Buncombe), Whilden (D – Buncombe)
- $100,000 for a mobile barbershop. S 683 Dannelly (D – Mecklenburg)
- $150,000 for the construction and operation of an “environmentally friendly” welcome center in Wilkes County. H1521 Randleman (R – Wilkes)
- $3 million for the North Carolina Symphony. H 1550 Bordsen (D – Alamance), Fisher (D – Buncombe), Underhill (D – Craven), Wainwright (D – Craven)
- $2 million for the NC Arts Council. H 236 Carney (D – Mecklenburg), Adams (D – Guilford), McComas (R – New Hanover), West (R – Cherokee)
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.
Note: Robert Boutwell and Zach McMicheal contributed research for this article.