State budget still has plenty of fat to trim

By Brian Balfour - Civitas Institute

On net, this year’s final budget deal can be viewed positively by conservatives. Tipping the scales in favor of the spending plan include: a net tax cut of nearly $400 million over two years, allowing the renewable energy tax credit to expire, elimination of taxpayer support for the highly partisan Hunt Center at UNC-Chapel Hill, and an expansion of the state’s school choice program.

There still remains, however, much work to be done. The budget includes far too many items that Civitas has highlighted as wasteful and outside the scope of core government services. And some are just blatant examples of legislators bringing home “the bacon” to their home districts – using state tax dollars. Civitas strongly recommends that legislators introducing line items to the budget that fund specific projects attach their name to the proposal in the name of transparency.

Taxpayers should be aware of this list of objectionable items that were included in the final budget deal:

$200K for a youth baseball tournament.

$50K for a museum dedicated to the history of the town of Stanley.

$30 million per year for film production taxpayer handouts to major Hollywood film studios.

$2.5 million in funds for The Support Center (formerly The Minority Support Center, a previous partner in Moral Monday protests).

Creation of a new historic preservation tax credit program valued at $8 million per year, after an earlier version of the credit had expired. There is another $190K per year allocated for salaries to administer this program.

Continued funding for UNC-TV (state public television) to the tune of $9.1 million per year.

$100K increase in funding for the Tryon Palace, a former Waste of the Week feature.

$5 million expansion in funds for the NC Biotech Center, yet another former Civitas Waste of the Week, bringing annual funding up to $13.6 million per year.

The Queen Anne’s Revenge archaeological project receives $1.5 million over two years.

$25K for the Rankin museum of American Heritage in Ellerbe.

Increase of $500K per year, up to $1.2 million annually, for the furniture convention in High Point. This event also receives $1.2 million per year from the transportation budget.

An increase of $1 million for the statewide local library grant program. Funding for local libraries should be provided at the local level.

Increase of $150K for the grassroots arts grants program, bringing total funding to nearly $2.5 million per year.

An expansion of $15K in the funding for the Roanoke Island Festival, bringing annual taxpayer support over $500K per year.

An $800K grant each year to the discredited nonprofit group Research Triangle International. The group has been the subject of scathing international audits accusing it of a “litany of waste” of taxpayer funds.

General state taxpayer support for the grassroots science museums was not reduced, though it will be transferred to the Museum of Natural Sciences for it to dispense via a grant program.

$1 million (with an increase to $2 million in the second year) for “tourism advertising” earmarked for the new Economic Development Partnership organization – a taxpayer subsidy for the tourism industry.

A $2.25 million increase in funding for the rural economic development grant program, bringing total funding over $15.5 million per year. This program has funding goals similar to the old Rural Center.

$2.25 million increase in the One Small Business Fund – a taxpayer handout to favored startup companies.

A $25K increase in funding for the Commerce Secretary’s “business recruitment activities.”

$2 million to the Main Street Solutions fund, which provides grants to “revitalize” small downtown areas.

More than $11.5 million in local earmarks that all fall in key budget negotiator Sen. Harry Brown’s district:

$100K for Brock’s Mill House and Pond in Trenton.

$500K for the Museum of the Marine in Jacksonville.

$11 million for Jones County to build a “collocated middle and high school”. Construction funding for schools is traditionally a local matter, according state General Statutes: “It is the policy of the State of North Carolina that the facilities requirements for a public education system will be met by county governments.” (G.S. 115C-408(b)). This line item is highly unusual.

Brian Balfour writes for the Civitas Institute, North Carolina’s Conservative Voice

By Brian Balfour

Civitas Institute

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