Among the seemingly endless line items in the Senate’s $22.9 billion budget is $728,772,719 for debt service in the 2017-18 budget, and in the 2018-2019 year that number climbs to $772,075,116.
It’s true that in a $22.9 billion budget that $730 million makes up about a third of a percentage point of the total, but that is still a significant chunk of change.
It is more than significant slices of state government.
The entire budget for the state agencies over agriculture and natural and economic resources is a little more than $550 million, and that includes the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Environmental Quality, Natural and Cultural Resources, and Labor … plus the Wildlife Resources Commission.
The debt payment for the next fiscal year eclipses the entire cost of running the judiciary, indigent defense services, and the Justice Department to the tune of $693 million.
The entire General Government section of the budget – which includes the Departments of Administration, Insurance, Revenue, and Military and Veterans Affairs; the state Housing Finance Agency; the Offices of the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, the Secretary of State, the State Treasurer and the State auditor; the General Assembly; and the boards overseeing elections and budget management – has a budget that includes a little more than half of the budget for paying down the state’s debt.
The entire General Government budget is $387 million, compared to the above-mentioned $730 million set aside for the 2017-18 fiscal year.
According to the State Budget Solutions 2014 report on state debt, the state had $8.9 billion in outstanding debt, but when unfunded liabilities such as pensions are factored in, that number climbed to $107.6 billion.
The report ranks North Carolina as 13th in total state debt but ranks the state 18th when only looking at outstanding debt.
The Senate budget proposal moved through the committees on appropriations, finance and pensions and retirement on Wednesday before being placed on the calendar for Thursday, with votes expected on Thursday and Friday to send the budget to the House next week. The House will respond by passing its version before almost certainly entering a conference committee with Senators to come to a mutual agreement on a spending plan.
The Senate came into session shortly after 4 p.m. to debate the budget on the floor ahead of votes Thursday and Friday.