$107 Billion, 580 Million, 297 Thousand dollars. ($107,580,297,000.00) THAT is how much debt North Carolina state government had racked up by January 2014. And how has the “conservative revolution” in Raleigh addressed this problem? By spending MORE and MORE each year.
State Budget Solutions, a right-leaning think tank, has compiled a database of total debt for each of the 50 state governments. According to these good folks, our government was sitting on more than $100 BILLION in debt as of January 2014. To put it in perspective, that translates to every resident of North Carolina owing $11,032. And THAT is just in total state debt. We’re not even factoring in what the “honorables” in DC have been doing to us.
How does our financial situation stack up to other state governments? North Carolina has the THIRD highest outstanding unemployment trust fund debt balance in America. (We’re behind only California and New York. ) South Carolina is in 8th place. Virginia is 47th, and Tennessee is 43rd.
We have the 13th largest amount of state debt in the nation. South Carolina ranks 22nd, while Virginia is 15th. Tennessee is at 33rd.
Of that total North Carolina state government debt amount, SBS has identified $67,033,140.00 ($67 BILLION) in “Market Valued Unfunded Pension Liability.” That’s pensions owed to state employees where there are NO fiscal resources available to PAY for them. In terms of market valued unfunded pension liability, we rank 20th out of 50. South Carolina is at 24th, while Virginia is at 12th. Tennessee is at 31st.
From that total $107.6 BILLION state debt amount, SBS finds that — as of January 2014 — North Carolina had $8,936,994,000 ($8.9 BILLION) in outstanding debt. That’s money the treasurer — and the council of state — has authorized the state government to borrow. In terms of outstanding debt, North Carolina ranks 18th out of 50. South Carolina ranks 22nd, while Virginia ranks 24th. Tennessee is at 36th.
North Carolina’s total debt amount also includes OPEB (other post-employment benefits.) That typically means “health benefits.” According to SBS, that total debt amount of $107.6 BILLION also includes $29,716,000,000 ($29.7 BILLION) in unfunded OPEB. In terms of Unfunded OPEB liabilities, North Carolina has the sixth largest amount in the country. Virginia is 21st, while South Carolina is 16th. Tennessee is at 31st.
SBS pegs North Carolina’s total state debt at 24 percent of its Gross State Product — the state level version of the GDP. North Carolina ranks 42nd in terms of per capita state debt.
The two real options for addressing the debt problem? Raising taxes or cutting spending. Cutting spending doesn’t seem to be a serious option for Raleigh. The “conservative revolution” took charge in 2011. In 2010, North Carolina government spent $38.8 BILLION. In 2011, that amount climbed to $39.5 BILLION. In 2012, state government spending climbed to $40.1 BILLION. In 2013, North Carolina state spending climbed to $40.5 BILLION. In 2014, total state spending is expected to reach $42.2 BILLION. By 2015, North Carolina government is expected to be spending $44.3 BILLION. See where we’re headed?
This is not a Democrat or Republican problem. (Though, the alleged conservative party should be making a good faith effort at dealing with our mounting debt.) It is a BI-PARTISAN failure in leadership. It is a failure on our part to not reign in our elected leaders.