The level of state government spending has been a prominent source of debate this election season. Big government apologists try to paint a picture of a woefully underfunded state government that lacks any resources to “adequately” fund government programs.
Most of the discussion focuses on short-term trends, with data often being cherry-picked to advance a pre-determined narrative.
Left out far too frequently, is a big picture reminder of state government spending growth over the years. A much better perspective is realized from longer-term trends.
The graph below is offered up as a means to provide such perspective. Next time someone tries to claim that state government has somehow been reduced down to just ‘bare bones’, challenge them with this chart. A few noteworthy points about this data:
- The graph contrasts NC’s general fund budget spending to population growth for the fiscal years 1978-79 thru 2014-15.
- The spending figures are adjusted for inflation
- Inflation-adjusted inflation has grown at more than three and a half times the rate of population growth
- Per-capita, inflation adjusted spending has nearly doubled during that time
- This chart does not account for federal funds passing thru to be spent in the state, an amount that has exploded in the last couple of decades
To see a comprehensive guide to North Carolina tax and spending policies over the last 30 years, check out the Civitas Institute’s Public Policy Series.