By FITSNews || Contrary to the repeated pronouncements of the state’s mainstream media (who apparently believe that if they keep telling the same lie over and over again, you’ll believe it), South Carolina’s total state budget for the 2010-11 fiscal year – which that started on Thursday – is not $5.1 billion.
Not even close.
Nor is it – as The (Columbia, S.C.) State newspaper reporter Roddie Burris dubbed it earlier this week – a “pain-filled budget,” a “shriveled budget” or a budget “faced with a $462 million shortfall.”
You can read Burris’ bureaucratic bitchfest – (a.k.a. “objective journalism”) – by clicking here, but the bottom line is that all of his bitching and moaning on behalf of South Carolina’s “reeling state agencies” is based on a premise that’s completely false.
After the S.C. House and Senate finished their work on Gov. Mark Sanford’s vetoes, the total budget for the current fiscal year stands at just over $20.8 billion. If revenues holds up (and that’s admittedly a big “if”), it will be the largest budget in state history by about $600-700 million. Should revenues fall off – which we predict that they will based on the current trajectory of the national and global economies – it will likely clock in at roughly the same level as it has the last two years.
S.C. lawmakers appropriated $20.8 billion two years ago and $20.6 billion last year – although revenue failed to keep up and they were forced to trim back both of those budgets to just over $20 billion apiece. Still, those numbers are obviously much bigger than the $5.1 billion figure that the press keeps force-feeding you – and keep in mind we’re in year three of one of the worst economic downturns in American history.
Also important to remember? Even before the recession, government spending in South Carolina was well above the national average, consuming more than forty percent of our gross state product. That’s the tenth-highest rate in the country, which is one reason why South Carolinians have to pay what is effectively the highest income tax rate in the Southeast.
But back to spending … why the huge budget discrepancy? Well, we addressed it back in March in a little post called The $5 Billion Lie (And $21 Billion Reality), but it all basically boils down to which sections of the budget the press chooses to include in their coverage.
The $5.1 billion that the vast majority of the legacy media (a.k.a. the mainstream press) chooses to report is general fund revenue only – which is just one slice of a much larger pie. You see on top of that $5.1 million, the state budget also includes approximately $8.2 billion in federal funds and $7.5 billion in “other funds” collected from fees and fines levied on South Carolinians.
And while general fund revenue has indeed been declining, both federal funding and the so-called “other funds” included in the state budget have soared in recent years.
We’ve talked to numerous reporters over the years about their budget reporting and they justify using the $5.1 billion figure by saying that this is the amount that lawmakers can control.
That’s not true, though.
State lawmakers hold enormous power over the remaining $15.7 billion. For example, lawmakers have an opportunity to vote on any new fee or fine that is levied on the people of South Carolina – or any increase or decrease in those assessments. On top of that, lawmakers direct how the revenue collected from those fees and fines is spent via hundreds of provisos that accompany the budget each year.
Then there are decisions the General Assembly makes with regard to federal “matching funds,” basically determining where to appropriate state dollars in anticipation of receiving a certain federal “match.” Now … do lawmakers directly control all of the $8.2 billion in federal funds including in this year’s budget? No … but their decisions certainly influence where that money goes.
When you add it all up, this year lawmakers will directly control around $12.6 billion and be able to influence another $8.2 billion.
Of course while there may be some legitimate disagreement regarding how certain money gets appropriated, there’s no disagreement as to where it’s going – even if state agencies are throwing pity parties for themselves hoping you won’t notice that they’re really getting fatter than ever during this economic downturn.
Take the University of South Carolina and Clemson University, the state’s two largest institutions of higher learning.
Citing draconian budget cuts, both USC and Clemson raised tuition on parents last week. But what did they fail to mention in doing so? Yeah … that their total government appropriations increased again this year – even before you count the revenue these tuition hikes will bring in.
It’s a scam, people … and it’s been going on for decades.
But while it’s expected that the government is going to lie to you, isn’t the job of the media to expose those lies … not help government cover them up?
But that’s why we’re here – and that’s why record numbers of South Carolinians are turning to websites like this one in an effort to get the truth about how their leaders are spending their money. And while the legacy media may have decided to abdicate its responsibility to the citizens and taxpayers years ago, count on FITS to continue you bringing you the real numbers.