North Carolina state government earned a “C” grade on its fiscal health in a report from the State Data Lab, a project of Truth in Accounting, a national non-profit organization dedicated to providing transparency in government accounting.
State Data Lab issues its grades by calculating the state’s available assets to pay its bills and subtracting all of its accumulated expenses. The estimates, since 2009, have included pension and health care liabilities. State Data Lab calculates a "Taxpayer Burden" based on the total amount that each individual taxpayer would be on the hook to pay off a state's accumulated debt. In a few cases where assets exceed expenses, it calculates a "Taxpayer Surplus."
Truth in Accounting grades states on their taxpayer burden or surplus, from best to worst. States that have A's have surpluses greater than $10,000 per taxpayer. States with B grades have a taxpayer surplus from $100 to $10,000. C-graded states have taxpayer burdens between $0 and $4,900. A D grade means each individual taxpayer would owe between $5,000 and $20,000. F grades are assigned to states with individual tax burdens of more than $20,000.
In this past year alone, North Carolina accumulated about $4 billion in obligations that must be paid by taxpayers. In the most recent report, the North Carolina debt burden is $1,300 for every taxpayer in the state.
Bill Bergman, director of research for Truth in Accounting, is optimistic about North Carolina’s performance, nonetheless.
“If you consider North Carolina’s peers to include the other 9 of the 10 largest states in the Union (by population), North Carolina actually ranks at the top (best) of that list, ahead of its neighbors in Georgia and Florida.” Bergman told The Center Square.
The 2019 report is a significant improvement over 2017, when North Carolina’s finances were given a D grade and the taxpayer burden was $8,100.