RALEIGH (WNCN) — Pork, or earmarks, are always in the state budget. They’re used to fund nonprofit groups, revitalization efforts and other initiatives. But they only go to certain communities. That usually means the communities represented by a member of the party in power.
Democrats are arguing the $23 billion budget just approved by the Republican-controlled legislature goes too far.
The governor’s Office sent CBS North Carolina a list of earmarks. There are 152 of them, totaling more than $73 million.
“It’s not debated. It’s not a chance for anybody to fairly compete. There’s no ‘Is it a good use of taxpayer money? Is it not?’ I don’t know,” House Democratic Leader Darren Jackson said.
“The minority party had to find something to criticize about the budget. I think they picked out certain special projects,” Rep. David Lewis (R-Harnett) said.
So what are some of those special projects? There’s nearly $6 million being spent on downtown revitalization grants – all designated for specific communities. For example, Cleveland, in Johnston County, which isn’t even a municipality.
Then there’s nearly $600,000 being spent on replacement furniture.
“I couldn’t believe the price tag was that high but you get to look at how many committee rooms and how many chairs that would be,” Lewis said.
CBS North Carolina also showed the list to taxpayers.
“I’m sure the furniture in there is fine,” Wes Cunningham of Raleigh said.
“Is it necessary? Is it essential?” David Clark of Raleigh asked.
“That’s normal. That goes on every year forever,” Lib Tuten of Raleigh said.
The budget is on the Gov. Roy Cooper’s desk. Cooper has called it “fiscally irresponsible.” He has 10 days to sign it, veto it or let it become law without his signature.