by Paige Terryberry
Senior Analyst for Fiscal Policy, John Locke Foundation
The new North Carolina budget has many positive elements, with notable tax cuts and school choice expansion. On balance, there is more good than bad.
Despite that, one area that warrants significant cleanup and improvement is the extensive pork spending.
During this budget process, legislators had unprecedented funds to work with. With a $6 billion surplus and ongoing debate with the Democratic governor, we expected to see pork in the state budget. Note that the pork referenced here does not include the $5.4 billion in federal coronavirus aid.
Unfortunately, however, the pork spending is unfettered. “Pork,” short for “pork-barrel spending,” refers to money elected officials allocate to local pet projects to bolster their political standing on the taxpayer dime.
Many of these projects sound nice, and some would benefit the local community. Yet to pay for them with state funds is inappropriate and a misuse of your tax dollars. These projects should be funded by local governments, if at all. And while some of these projects are nonrecurring, a sustainable option to the recurring alternative, many should not exist in this budget.
This rampant spending reveals vulnerabilities in the arguments from the left that the state government does not have sufficient revenue.
The John Locke Foundation’s Senior Fellow for the Center for Effective Education, Bob Luebke, commented on the pork in this budget saying, “Forty million on athletic facilities? That money could help pay for about 560 more teachers. If schools want to spend money on athletic facilities instead of teachers, they have no business complaining about a teacher shortage.”
Moreover, under state law, funding public school facilities is the responsibility of local governments. State funding for local school athletic facilities would count as pork.
Below find just a sampling of the extensive pork in the Fiscal Year 2021-23 budget:
K-12 athletic facilities:
Counties, cities, and towns:
Campgrounds, playgrounds, parks, and trails:
Nearly 300 projects qualify as “other” in the budget’s money report. This nomenclature alone alludes to a misuse of funds. These handouts go to fire stations, agricultural centers, memorials, sheriff’s offices, regional theaters, boat ramps, sidewalk repairs, landfills, farmers markets, libraries, and museums, to name a few categories. Some examples include:
This excessive amount of pork spending shows increased willingness to misuse taxpayer money. Whether for political gain at home or in the legislature, pork spending is a misuse of taxpayer money and must be reined in.