Publisher's note: This post, by Brian Balfour, was originally published in Civitas's online edition.
The state budget for FY 2018-19 contains nearly 170 line items totaling $30 million that are highly inappropriate or outright pork.
Appropriations directing funding to local pet projects include items such as walking trails, playgrounds, county fairs and highway signs. Moreover, dozens of nonprofit organizations receive direct appropriations in the budget. Make no mistake, these nonprofits perform admirable work. However, it is highly inappropriate - and unfair favoritism - to single out nonprofits for specific appropriations of state tax dollars, instead of having them go through the appropriate grant process
There is little doubt that a large percentage, if not all, of these earmarks represent legislators trying to "bring home the bacon" to their districts in an election year. State taxpayers should not be forced to finance explicitly local projects.
Note that the items identified in this article include only adjustments made to the second year of the biennial budget passed last year. There no doubt are many more such earmarks that will be doled out this year that were previously included in last year's budget.
Legislative leaders have rightly been criticized for the closed-door, non-transparent process used in crafting the budget. It is plausible to believe that these 166 line items were the result of political horse-trading behind closed doors, which left virtually no time for objections from legislators before the House and Senate voted.
Such a significant number of earmarks, while not adding up to a major percentage of the budget in dollar terms, raises legitimate concerns about political patronage in which representatives direct state funds to local projects in exchange for political support.
Below is the list of these items Civitas has identified: