We continue to have a structural problem in our budgeting process in the General Assembly. It must be addressed soon. Over the last couple of years the Legislature has been unwilling to make the sacrifices necessary to get our structural problem resolved. Our problem, at least until the current recession, has not been related to income, it is related to spending. Over the past 20 years our state government spending has increased 318% while our population has only increased 42% during this time frame. In North Carolina, our government is spending almost two and a half times what we need to keep up with population growth plus inflation! One of the best examples of this runaway spending are the recent DOT construction errors on two NC interstate highways which were the direct result of no one person being responsible for a job. Also, in the area of mental health, rampant spending has been evident with little oversight with respect to the effectiveness of this spending.
In 2009, for the fourth year in a row, an amendment to our Constitution has been presented by Republicans in the General Assembly that addresses this structural problem in our budgeting process. Each year, Senator Hunt has co-sponsored this resolution. Every year the Democratic leadership refused to allow the proposal to come to the floor for a vote. This legislation requires spending to be capped by the percentage growth in the state's population plus the inflation percentage increase for the previous year. Had this legislation passed five years ago, we would have had an additional $3 billion in our Rainy Day fund to help us through the current recession. The recovery stifling $900 million dollar increase would not have been needed!
We all want to protect those lowest on the economic ladder. But our government largess has expanded to include those individuals making high incomes as well as providing significant "corporate welfare" to companies worth billions. Two hundred years ago Alex de Toqueville said (paraphrased) that America's democracy will survive until the public figures out they can vote themselves benefits from the public trough. We certainly can see that as we see "Entitlement Spending" at the federal and state levels growing exponentially. We need to keep that thought in mind as we struggle to get our spending under control.