This article was written by Seth Effron and published in North Carolina Insight in 1987.
Until a relatively few years ago, pork barrel appropriations in the N.C. General Assembly- thosefinancial goodies legislators send back to theirhome districts-were perquisites reserved exclusively for legislative leaders. Now all that has changed, and nearly every member of the legislature can expect a share of thepork barrel. How has the process changed in the last 10 years? And what policy questions does that raise about the way lawmakers spend public monies?
Last spring, a month before the N.C. General Assembly started its serious con sideration of a 1987-88 budget totaling almost $10 billion, State Auditor Edward
Renfrow issued an unusual eight-page report Fol lowing much public debate and journalistic analysis of the legislature’s recent years’ local appropria tions bills commonly known as “pork barrel” – Renfrow got out his microscope and examined 96 pork barrel expenditures to 46 agencies in 28 counties. Those appropriations had cost the state
$3.7 million since 1983.
Renfrow found no evidence of illegal use of taxpayer dollars inthe spending. But, he confessed in his letter, that would have been difficult to spot anyway since many of the organizations receiving pork barrel funds kept such poor records. Then the Auditor came to a less-than-startling conclusion, but one which had caused him and other students of the appropriations process much consternation: “We recognize that many people consider these appropriations to be ‘gifts’ to local organizations which require no further accountability . . . . We believe recipients which accept these monies must also accept the responsibility to properly account to the state.”1
- “Limited Scope Review on a Sample of Appropriations for ‘Local Projects,”‘ Management Letter from State Auditor Edward Renfrow to Gov. James G. Martin, Lt. Gov. Robert B. Jordan III and Speaker of the House Liston Ramsey, June 3, 1987, p. 3. ↩