This week, the North Carolina General Assembly released its 2017-18 conference committee budget. And there are certainly implications for local governments! I’ve spent this week trying to figure out just how much money this budget allocates to local governments for various small projects.
And that’s an important point. Most of the projects really are small, such as $13,000 to for the library in the town of St Pauls. But all those small projects – a library here, a museum there, and a park shelter somewhere else add up to real money that could be used for higher-priority areas or returned to taxpayers in the form of lower taxes.
The budget is a long document. Between the written text of the bill and the conference report, there’s almost 1000 pages. I say that by way of disclaimer. I didn’t read every word, and I may have missed some things. I also intentionally left some things out. I didn’t include anything in this list that was earmarked for schools or Medicaid. There is a lot of money for each of those things, but I just looked at the rest.
Most of these grants are for cultural projects, infrastructure, economic development, and revitalization projects. And many of them may be very worthy of taxpayer money. But altogether, they come to an additional $20 million taken from taxpayers across the state. And I have to question whether that’s really the best use of those taxpayer dollars. Are there philanthropists who might like to contribute to a library? Are there civic groups that might fund park improvements? Are there businesses that might sponsor a museum? Legislators should consider those questions before handing out tens of millions of dollars for pet projects across the state.