Resolutions: "Follow The Law!"


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.

How to pay for roads in 2014... without raising taxes

The SC Policy Council published this budget analysis last week.

One would think that if transportation funding were actually a priority, lawmakers would prioritize the taxes already collected for the purpose of repairing roads and bridges. Yet as much as lawmakers have taken the House and Senate floor to plead for more money for transportation, the budgets passed in both chambers don’t reflect this supposed concern.... The money is already there; only it’s being spent on corporate welfare and pork-laden earmarks.

We found at a bare minimum $644 million not currently in the Department of Transportation budget that could be transferred to the department.

  • Department of Commerce: $65,277,555. Even when not including federal funds, over $65 million budgeted for the Department of Commerce could be transferred to DoT with no harmful effects. State government does more harm than good by redistributing wealth from taxpayers to state-selected companies, as much of the money allocated is budgeted to do.
  • Rural Infrastructure Authority: $27,550,000. Essentially another arm of the Department of Commerce, this new agency doles out money for local projects that bureaucrats then appropriate.
  • Capital Reserve Fund: $127,791,525. Often used as a slush fund for lawmakers to fund pet projects, this money could be spent on actual capital projects – like fixing roads and bridges. Instead, they decided to fund things like:
    • The Deal Closing Fund (plain ol’ corporate welfare): $24.9 million
    • Locate SC Site Inventory: $6 million
    • “Office of Innovation”: $1 million
    • Department of Commerce “Research Initiatives”: $4 million
    • Sesquicentennial State Park Splash Pad: $500,000
  • Infrastructure Bank Board: $150,453,276. Although this money would be spent on “transportation,” it would be spent based on the skewed priorities of the board that has a history of funding very few counties, and road expansions, not repairs. Money is also put in this agency so it can be bonded at a much higher rate than it can in the DoT budget.
  • Non-recurring Provisos (From FY14 Surplus): $187,275,934. Although it’s not prudent to rely on “one-time” money to fund major state functions, if lawmakers were serious about their concerns for transportation spending, they’d use these funds in conjunction with others to fund transportation needs. These are just a few examples-mostly from the Senate budget they decided to fund instead:
    • Partnerships for Innovation-TransformSC: $200,000
    • Deal Closing Fund (corporate welfare): $12.4 million
    • SC Council of Competitiveness: $750,000
    • Sports Development Fund: $2 million
    • Congressional Medal of Honor Bowl: $100,000
    • Historic Columbia-Woodrow Wilson Family Home: $600,000
    • Southeastern Wildlife Expo: $200,000
    • Marion County Workforce Development Training Facility: $500,000
    • U. of Charleston-Purchase of Surplus State Property: $2 million
    • Multi-Purpose Business/Entertainment/Sports Complex-City-County of Spartanburg: $380,000
  • “The Money Tree”: $86,000,000. The Board of Economic Advisors recently added roughly $86 million to the state’s next fiscal year, thus giving lawmakers more money to “work with.” Although Governor Haley argued in the widely ignored executive budget that the money that falls from this “money tree” should be used for transportation, it’s unclear what lawmakers will use it for. However, it could be assumed that the House will use this extra money to help conform to the budget that the Senate desires (to avoid a conference committee).
  • Legislator Pay Raises: $2,000,000. Although the additional $1,000/month for in-district expenses would be optional, the budget will need to cover the full amount since lawmakers can be counted on to take the full amount. (Remember, in-district expenses at the present level are “optional,” too.)

If lawmakers really valued funding transportation, they could easily use these items to accomplish that end. The money is there if they want to use it. They would just have to give up their raises, pork projects, the power to hand out corporate welfare. Don’t hold your breath.