One of the sticking points of the North Carolina state budget is always education.
Republicans have had a majority in the state legislature since 2011, which means they have controlled the budget for over a decade and are routinely bashed in the mainstream media for not spending enough on education.
The question is, how much is enough.
The Fiscal Research Division of the North Carolina General Assembly released the State General Fund Budget Overview and Outlook as part of the process of writing a 2023-2025 budget.
According to that document, in the 2022-2023 fiscal year the state spent 40.4 percent of the budget, or $11.3 billion, on public schools. That is only what the state spent on public schools and doesn’t account for the amount county governments spent on public schools.
In addition, the state spent 18.6 percent of the budget or $5.2 billion on higher education.
So, the total the state spent on education is 59 percent of the state budget.
The next highest expense for the state was Medicaid, which accounted for 16.9 percent of the budget, or $4.7 billion.
Those three together account for 76 percent of the state budget.
By comparison, the state spent 3.1 percent of the budget for $853 million on the court system and $633 million for 2.3 percent of the budget on public safety.
In the 2021-2022 fiscal year, the state spent 49.3 percent of the general fund budget on salaries and 21.3 percent on benefits. Medicaid service costs made up 15.2 percent of the general fund budget and everything else was 14.2 percent of the budget.
The COVID relief funds had a significant impact on the state budget. North Carolina received $5.7 billion in State Fiscal Recovery COVID relief funds and other American Rescue Plan federal grants of $7.8 billion. That $7.8 billion includes $4.5 billion for education, $1.3 billion for childcare, $830 million for housing assistance and $496 million for public health.