You would think that passing resolutions which basically say "follow the law" would be pointless. Unfortunately, the South Carolina Legislature has not been following two specific laws pertaining to the State budget: funding the Local Government Fund, and holding joint, open budget hearings on the Governor's budget. I plan to introduce two resolutions addressing these issues (see below) at the upcoming Delegation meeting. You're welcome to attend:
Anderson County Legislative Delegation Meeting Friday, Dec. 5th at 6pm Ronald P. Townsend Government Building 2404 North Main Street Anderson, SC
The Local Government Fund
Act 171 of 1991 created the Local Government Fund which some counties rely on to provide services. The act requires the fund to consist of 4.5% of the previous year's tax revenues. Since 2007-2008 we've slashed the Local Government Fund by over $343 million, incentivizing local governments to double-tax their citizens to make up the shortfall.
In short, rather than pass on all of the tax dollars to which local governments were entitled by law, the state chose instead to keep part of those dollars.
The message sent to local governments was clear: the State is only willing to tighten its belt so far. Good luck tightening yours.
The Budget Process
Sections 11-11-90 and 11-11-100 of state law requires the House and Senate budget committees to convene jointly in public hearings to receive input on the budget. Not any budget, though: the Governor's budget.
Why does this matter? The South Carolina Policy Council explains:
When the budget becomes entirely a product of the legislature, as it is currently in South Carolina, it’s no longer a coherent spending plan based on the needs of the state as a whole; it’s rather a collection of spending items, many of them duplicative, meant to benefit local and regional constituencies, without regard for what benefits the entire state. The governor is the one public official in the budget process who is elected by the entire state; he or she is accountable to the Upstate, the Midlands, the Lowcountry, the Pee Dee, and everywhere in between. The law’s requirement that the executive budget be used as the first draft, therefore, makes sense.
When you think about it, the current practice of the House and Senate writing their own budgets separately without regard for each other or the Governor's budget may have much to do with why some parts of the state are better cared for than others in areas like road and education funding.
It's also inefficient. Why should state agencies, the media, and the public have to navigate multiple, sometimes simultaneous, subcommittee hearings--not once, but twice--to have input in the budget process, when state law has already outlined a clear and simple budget process which calls for the Governor, House, and Senate to work jointly?
What does the SC Legislature have to lose by adopting this streamlined process?
Don't Play God
Some lawmakers do not like these laws. They describe them as "antiquated," "unnecessary," or even "unconstitutional." Many of these arguments are in my view thinly-veiled arguments for the status quo and hold no weight.
One's personal feelings about the demerits of a state law does not give lawmakers the option to ignore said law. If a law is poorly thought out, inefficient, or no longer appropriate, it should be amended or repealed, but it may not be ignored. Lawmakers cannot play God.
In an effort to raise awareness and support among the SC Legislature for these issues, I plan to introduce two resolutions at the Friday, Dec. 5th meeting of the Anderson County Legislative Delegation. You can read the resolutions below.
This meeting will be held at 6pm at the Ronald P. Townsend Government Building on 2404 North Main Street, Anderson, SC. You are welcome to attend.