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Spotlight 422-2012 State Spending at a Record High: Albeit Concealed, State Spending Has Grown For Decades

Spotlight 422-2012 State Spending at a Record High: Albeit Concealed, State Spending Has Grown For Decades

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• Total state spending per capita is at its highest level ever in the 2012 fiscal year and has more than tripled since 1970—from $1,701 to an authorized $5,247.
• Over the past four decades, state spending has grown much faster than personal income, rising as a percentage from 10.9 in 1970 to 14.4 in 2012.
• A simple cap on state spending at inflation and population growth since 2000 would have restrained spending to $38.5 billion, 75 percent of the current $51.5 billion.
• In real, per capita terms, spending on all reported categories has more than doubled since the mid-1970s. That includes education, corrections, health and human services, transportation, and debt servicing.
• General fund spending per capita has declined by 16 percent since 2009, but per capita spending outside of the general fund increased by 26 percent and more than compensated for the general fund’s decline.
• General fund spending comprises 38 percent of total state spending in 2012, down from 53 percent in 1970 and 59 percent in 2000.
• Federal aid continues to comprise an ever-larger portion of the state budget. In 2012, 36 percent of state revenue is from federal aid, up from 21 percent in 1975 and 24 percent in 2000.
• North Carolina’s cash-basis accounting conceals spending and is generating unfunded liabilities—obligations to pay without sufficient funds set aside. The state’s largest is for employee retirement health benefits, unfunded by at least $34.2 billion at the end of 2010. The $4.4 billion growth of this specific liability over 2009 and 2010, constituted 4.8 percent of total state spending for that period.
• Total state spending per capita is at its highest level ever in the 2012 fiscal year and has more than tripled since 1970—from $1,701 to an authorized $5,247.
• Over the past four decades, state spending has grown much faster than personal income, rising as a percentage from 10.9 in 1970 to 14.4 in 2012.
• A simple cap on state spending at inflation and population growth since 2000 would have restrained spending to $38.5 billion, 75 percent of the current $51.5 billion.
• In real, per capita terms, spending on all reported categories has more than doubled since the mid-1970s. That includes education, corrections, health and human services, transportation, and debt servicing.
• General fund spending per capita has declined by 16 percent since 2009, but per capita spending outside of the general fund increased by 26 percent and more than compensated for the general fund’s decline.
• General fund spending comprises 38 percent of total state spending in 2012, down from 53 percent in 1970 and 59 percent in 2000.
• Federal aid continues to comprise an ever-larger portion of the state budget. In 2012, 36 percent of state revenue is from federal aid, up from 21 percent in 1975 and 24 percent in 2000.
• North Carolina’s cash-basis accounting conceals spending and is generating unfunded liabilities—obligations to pay without sufficient funds set aside. The state’s largest is for employee retirement health benefits, unfunded by at least $34.2 billion at the end of 2010. The $4.4 billion growth of this specific liability over 2009 and 2010, constituted 4.8 percent of total state spending for that period.

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Published by: John Locke Foundation on May 07, 2012
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for Truth 
The John Locke Foundation
is a501(c)(3) nonproft, nonpartisan researchinstitute dedicated to improving public policy debate in North Carolina. Viewpoints expressed by authors do not necessarilyreect those o the sta or board o the Locke Foundation.
200 W. Morgan, #200Raleigh, NC 27601
phone:
919-828-3876
fax:
919-821-5117www.johnlocke.org
spot
light
No. 422 – May 8, 2012
2012 S
tate
S
pending
 
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 Albeit Concealed, State Spending Has Grown For Decades
KEY FACTS:• Total state spending per capita is at its highestlevel ever in the 2012 fscal year and has more than tripled since 1970—rom$1,701 to an authorized $5,247.• Over the past our decades, state spending has grown much aster thanpersonal income, rising as a percentage rom 10.9 in 1970 to 14.4 in 2012.• A simple cap on state spending at ination and population growth since2000 would have restrained spending to $38.5 billion, 75 percent o the cur-rent $51.5 billion.• In real, per capita terms, spending on all reported categories has morethan doubled since the mid-1970s. That includes education, corrections,health and human services, transportation, and debt servicing.• General und spending per capita has declined by 16 percent since 2009,but per capita spending outside o the general und increased by 26 percentand more than compensated or the general und’s decline.• General und spending comprises 38 percent o total state spending in2012, down rom 53 percent in 1970 and 59 percent in 2000.• Federal aid continues to comprise an ever-larger portion o the statebudget. In 2012, 36 percent o state revenue is rom ederal aid, up rom 21percent in 1975 and 24 percent in 2000.• North Carolina’s cash-basis accounting conceals spending and is gener-ating ununded liabilities—obligations to pay without sufcient unds setaside. The state’s largest is or employee retirement health benefts, un-unded by at least $34.2 billion at the end o 2010. The $4.4 billion growth o this specifc liability over 2009 and 2010, constituted 4.8 percent o total statespending or that period.
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mid heated, partisan debates over incremental budget adjustments, one can be forgiven for losing track of the longer-term trend of state spending. The North Carolina legislature’s shifts toward spending outside of the general fund,
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increased reliance on federal aid, and spending through deferred compensation have alsoconcealed the size of state spending. A simple aggregation of the data, however, afrms that over the past four decades and in recent years NorthCarolina has experienced a persistent rise in state spending, both in per capita terms and as a proportion of income. Adjusted for ination, state spending per capita has more than tripled since 1970—from $1,701 to an authorized$5,247 for this 2012 scal year, which is higher than at any time during those four decades.
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$0$1,000$2,000$3,000$4,000$5,000$6,000
  1  9   7  0   1  9   7  2   1  9   7  4   1  9   7  6   1  9   7  8   1  9  8  0   1  9  8  2   1  9  8  4   1  9  8  6   1  9  8  8   1  9  9  0   1  9  9  2   1  9  9  4   1  9  9  6   1  9  9  8   2  0  0  0   2  0  0  2   2  0  0  4   2  0  0  6   2  0  0  8   2  0  1  0   2  0  1  2 
Total State Spending per Capita (2012 Dollars)
$1,701$5,247
Sources: North Carolina Office of State Budget and Management, Census Bureau, Bureau of Economic Analysis
The spending expansion has been so rapid that it has far exceeded personal income growth during that period.Prior to 2008, state spending had not exceeded 12 percent of personal income, and it got down to 9.3 percent in 1984. Yet, for 2012 it is on course to be 14.4 percent.If legislators had restrained state spending to ination and population growth since 2000—which a majority of North Carolinians support
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—state spending would be at $38.5 billion in 2012. That equates to 75 percent of the cur-rent spending level of $51.5 billion.Even when one breaks the spending down into categories—education, corrections, health and human services,transportation, and debt servicing—the trends remain similar. In real, per capita terms, all of these spending cat-egories have more than doubled in size since the mid-1970s.
 
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 As a percentage of income, though, there are a few exceptions to the aggregate rise—education, transportation,and debt servicing.Although much higher in per capita, ination-adjusted terms, state spending on education has uctuatedaround 4 percent of total income for the past 40 years. The high point came in 1991 at 4.8 percent, and thelow point was in 1973 at 3.5 percent. This year, 2012, sits right on the forty-year average of 4.2 percent.Transportation spending is set to constitute 1.3 percent of income in 2012, the highest level since 1979. How-ever, in the mid-1970s it got up to 1.7 percent.Debt servicing is notable because of a disproportionately high rise in recent times. Since 2000, it has in-creased in per capita terms by 128 percent and more than doubled as a percentage of income. At nearly $1billion per year, the interest paid out is part of a broad and worsening debt problem for North Carolina.
Under the Radar
For a variety of reasons, the persistent growth in state spending has not been easily visible to constituents, jour-nalists, and policy professionals. Some publications and outlets have even claimed that state spending has shrunkover the past forty years.
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6%7%8%9%10%11%12%13%14%15%
  1  9   7  0   1  9   7  2   1  9   7  4   1  9   7  6   1  9   7  8   1  9  8  0   1  9  8  2   1  9  8  4   1  9  8  6   1  9  8  8   1  9  9  0   1  9  9  2   1  9  9  4   1  9  9  6   1  9  9  8   2  0  0  0   2  0  0  2   2  0  0  4   2  0  0  6   2  0  0  8   2  0  1  0   2  0  1  2 
Total State Spending as a Percentage of Income
Sources: North Carolina Office of State Budget and Management, Bureau of Economic Analysis
10.9%14.4%

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