Local Politics

How much state spending is too much?

Posted July 15, 2009

— The House and Senate passed a continuing resolution Wednesday to keep state government running without a new budget.

The first continuing resolution, which expired Wednesday, limited spending to 85 percent of 2008-09 levels. The new one, which will last until July 31, caps spending at 84 percent of previous levels.

State budget GOP says more cuts possible, taxes not needed

Meanwhile, budget negotiators remain far apart on where to cut and how to raise taxes to finalize an $18.9 billion spending plan. Gov. Beverly Perdue called key Senate Democrats to the Capitol in hopes of pushing them toward an agreement.

"She's getting a little frustrated like I am, so she knows we need to draw something to a conclusion pretty quick," said Sen. David Hoyle, D-Gaston.

The sour economy has forced lawmakers to trim the $20.6 billion budgets of the past two years to an $18.9 billion spending plan, yet Republicans note the amount is still much larger than a few years ago.

In the 2003-04 budget cycle, the state budget was $14.7 billion, meaning the proposed budget would be almost 29 percent larger.

"Obviously, we spent more money than we needed to," said Sen. Neal Hunt, R-Wake. "You can call it pork. Call it whatever you want. It's at least porkish."

Democrats said a majority of the additional spending has gone to education, health and human services and public safety as North Carolina's population continues to grow.

"We started More at Four. We did a lot of things for Smart Start. We did a lot of things for children and for our universities we had not been able to do before," Senate Majority Leader Tony Rand said.

According to the National Association of State Budget Offices, North Carolina ranked 33rd in per-capita spending, based on total state expenditures in 2007. The state spent $4,214 per person.

New Jersey topped the NASBO list, with per-capita spending of $22,187, while New Mexico was 50th, with $1,569 in spending per person.

Neighboring Southeast states spent amounts similar to North Carolina, according to NASBO. South Carolina ranked 30th, at $4,437; Virginia was 31st, at $4,342; Tennessee was 37th, at $3,910; and Georgia was 39th, at $3,756.

Other reports rank North Carolina as low as 45th in per-capita spending.

"We've tried to make sure we lived within our means," Rand said. "We're in a mess now, but so is everybody."

Republican leaders said that's not saying much.

"North Carolina is not unique in overspending," Hunt said. "It might be good for a small group of people, but it's not good for the state . So we've got to have more courageous legislators to stand up and say enough is enough."

As part of the budget negotiations, Democrats are trying agree on a plan to raise $990 million in new revenue to avoid deep cuts to some programs. Republicans insist a fair budget can be passed with no new taxes.


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  • toddbyrd Jul 16, 2009

    With the state complaining about a short fall I find it hard to continue to drive by state jobs and see one man working and 3 standing around watching. One job that I drove by today there were 2 people operating equipment but there were 8 people standing around. Talk about a waste of money.

    How many people will agree with me that when you drive by a state job there are more people standing around talking and looking than there are working. If the state wants to cut some out of the spending then they need to cut some of the dead weight.

  • 5Rs Jul 16, 2009

    original intent, "What happened to all the money from the so-called "surplus years"--or was that just a big LIE??"

    The extra billion was not only spent (Tony Rand, Jim Black, B Perdue & co.) when there was a windfall from capital gains a decade ago, but they committed the following years to the same level of spending, a big part of the reason we are in today's mess. As long as you elect the same leadership, expect the same results.

  • oldschooltarheel Jul 16, 2009

    Cut that budget by 70% - right across the board. Eliminate support of illegal aliens & their chattel. Make state jails & prisons cost neutral (hint - work those inmates). Slash "educational administrators" (the old line is "those who can't teach, administrate") positions right on down. Quit pilfering from the designated pots of money. Make the Easley's pay back those burgers & onion rings in Italy & all the other expenditures they wallowed about in. Cut the "poverty educator" over in Chapel Thrill (& a bunch more dubious "educators" could leave with him). Reduce class size on the state funded law schools. Have the State Legislature & Governor cut their salary & benefits by 30%. Start charging "legislators" for each new piece of legislation they submit. There's plenty of ways to reduce that bloated "gimmee my pork" budget. Legislators need to grow the "backbone" to do it - maybe this time the rascals will actually get voted out if they do not curb their spendthrift ways.

  • uncange1 Jul 16, 2009

    Sorry, I couldn't resist - one more thing...Head Start is not state funded - it is federally funded. That is it - I promise!

  • uncange1 Jul 16, 2009

    One more for the road! You all have a great night!


  • uncange1 Jul 16, 2009

    I didn't mention before, I now work for Head Start and have for eight years. I guess I have decided to return the favor. Sure, I guess I could go "babysit", but I decided that I would make a career out of it. Since I started working with Head Start, I have impacted the lives of approximately 2500+ children. I like to think that means something and has a valid purpose.

  • uncange1 Jul 16, 2009

    All I can say is, if we don't invest in our children now, we may very well be paying for them in the future. The question is, what exactly will we be paying for? I went to head start, was a product of a single parent "poor" home. Somehow, I managed to graduate from UNC-CH with a degree (go figure) and am going to finish working on my Master's degree in Education/Early Childhood Education in four more months. Not to say that head start was the only reason I was successful, but I can't help to think that it didn't hurt. Finally, the focus on the whole child (ex: health, mental health, nutrition, family services)help parents from low-income homes realize the importance of these factors on education.



  • Garnerwolf1 Jul 16, 2009

    Thanks. Per the Commerce site about 17.8% of nonfarm employees are government employees (roughly 715,000). Of these about 100,000 are state employees. Govt has lost 1,100 jobs over the last 4 months, which is the second lowest industry segment. Jobs losses in construction and 'other services' are the highest on a percentage basis http://www.nccommerce.com/NR/rdonlyres/AFE32AC4-4ADC-4F52-9245-D19F7B0F57D5/0/20090331_economicindex.pdf

  • Bendal1 Jul 16, 2009

    Even if 20% of NC's workforce is employed by "government", that doesn't mean that the STATE government is paying all of their salaries. The important number is how many are STATE employees, since they're the only ones being paid out of the state budget.

  • larieke Jul 16, 2009

    U.S. Census Bureau/U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics/N.C. Dept of Commerce/N.C. Dept. of Labor.

    Yes, it would be nice if there were one, nice clean source. But I guess that's why we are paid for what we do.