NC Budget and Tax Center

So-called “mini-budgets” put NC’s fiscal health at risk

For the first time in recent history, North Carolina has failed to pass a final state budget. Absent a comprehensive budget, the state leaders are passing individual spending bills, or “mini budgets.” Comprehensive budgets are preferable to piecemeal legislation because they allow for greater fiscal control, oversight, and planning. Unifying state spending within a single document helps monitor performance over time, provide clarity to the public on priorities, and facilitate long-term sustainability. 

In 2015, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) released a set of budgetary principles imploring governments around the world to “present a comprehensive, accurate and reliable account of the public finances.” Without a complete budget, it is nearly impossible to achieve accuracy, clarity, inclusive participation, and transparency while maximizing value for money.

Ignoring these principles creates significant risks for duplicative spending, fragmentation, misinterpretation, inaccurate calculations, inadequate appropriations, and inaccessible documentation of expenditures. Together, these risks and realities compromise North Carolina’s fiscal health, undermine the credibility of the state, and “shake the foundations of our democracy.”

Failing to pass a comprehensive budget also restricts North Carolina’s ability to track how investments change over time. Even as GDP continues to rise, state investments as a share of GDP are at an all-time low. Research by the Washington Center for Equitable Growth confirms that low-income children and families are disproportionately harmed by under-investment in infrastructure, education, and innovation. 

Coupled with tax cuts for the rich, widening economic inequality keeps people from realizing their full potential and slows overall productivity. Now, when the economy is growing and interest rates are low, the state should be funding infrastructure projects that bring transportation to disconnected communities, public education initiatives that close the achievement gap, and research and development that can be used by businesses and entrepreneurs to spur innovation and growth. 

State budgets are important for many reasons, not the least of which is determining whether government spending is aligned with community needs and public priorities. Breaking the budget up into bite-sized bills makes it easier for special interests to influence spending decisions, increases structural inequality, and exacerbates socioeconomic disparities. If North Carolina wants to build a stronger, more vibrant, more inclusive, and more sustainable economy, it should pass a comprehensive budget that prioritizes public investments and cultivates shared prosperity.

Leila Pedersen is a Policy Analyst with the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the NC Justice Center.

One Comment


  1. SpecialKinNJ

    October 10, 2019 at 9:53 am

    National data suggest that getting out of poverty doesn’t change the achievement gap –a difficult-to-acknowledge reality.
    SAT scores by race and income https://www.redditstatic.com/desktop2x/img/renderTimingPixel.pnghttps://i.imgur.com/PD9hz9b.jpg
    At all family income levels the racial gap persists
    See https://lesacreduprintemps19.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/why-ses-does-not-explain.pdf for detail.

    The stability of average performance on tests of reading writing and arithmetic is suggested by data for a recent 30-year period showing the average performance of all students as well as students classified by race/ethnicity on an internationally recognized test (the SAT). See table below, showing SAT Critical Reading averages for selected years. Note. Data for Asian-Americans indicate that they’re exceptions o that rule. Their average has improved steadily, and they’re now
    leaders of the pack”.

    Table 1. SAT Critical Reading average selected years
    1987 ’97 2001 ’06 ’11 ’15 ’16
    507 505 506 503 497 495 494 All students
    524 526 529 527 528 529 528 White
    479 496 501 510 517 525 529 Asian
    …………………………… . …..436 Hispanic
    457 451 451 454 451 448 Mex-Am
    436 454 457 459 452 448 Puerto R
    464 466 460 458 451 449 Oth Hisp
    471 475 481 487 484 481 447 Amer Ind
    428 434 433 434 428 431 430 Black
    SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics.(2012).
    Digest of Education Statistics, 2011 (NCES 2012-001), Chapter 2. SAT averages for
    college-bound seniors, by race/ethnicity: Selected years,1986-87 through 2010–11
    Data for 2015&2016 https://nces.ed.gov/fastfac… Note 2016 data were not provided for Hispanic subgroups.

    If SAT averages haven’t changed materially over almost 30 years, despite the effort, time and money expended
    to improve educational programs for all students, it seems reasonable to assume that we shouldn’t expect any
    meaningful change in average level of performance in this critically important ability in the foreseeable future.

    You might consider getting the reactions of school officials to data such as those in the table.

Top Stories from NCPW

  • News
  • Commentary

A national civil rights group will intervene on behalf of its clients in the lawsuit that led to the [...]

Since PFAS are unregulated, no public notification is required. Food packaging could be a source of [...]

WASHINGTON — Toward the end of his life, the late U.S. Rep. John Dingell Jr. reportedly asked his wi [...]

Stench and flies. Noise and traffic. Waste flowing into waterways. Manure-infused spray. Complaints [...]

For over two decades, North Carolina has systematically violated the constitutional rights of its ch [...]

Last December I condemned the UNC–Chapel Hill Board of Trustees (BOT) proposal to literally enshrine [...]

The Trump administration recently revealed how it is going to take away food from nearly 700,000 Ame [...]

Nine years ago in this space, Policy Watch reported on one of the most consistently pernicious aspec [...]