By FITSNews || Will 2011 be the year that several common sense, long-overdue reforms finally become law in South Carolina?
That’s what a handful of fiscal conservatives in the S.C. General Assembly are hoping … and they’re crafting ambitious legislative agendas with the aim of seizing the moment and riding a wave of voter outrage against the failed tax-and-spend policies of the past.
Well, and the present.
In the Senate, the effort to craft a comprehensive reform agenda is being led by Tom Davis (R-Beaufort). Meanwhile in the S.C. House of Representatives, Rep. Tracy Edge (R-Myrtle Beach) has reportedly been fashioning a broad reform agenda of his own. Other fiscally-conservative lawmakers are also working on specific policy initiatives in the hopes that a rising tide of Tea Party activism and the anticipated election of Nikki Haley in November will bring about a shift in the state’s governing direction.
But are those hopes well-founded?
Previous legislative reform agendas have failed miserably, running into a brick wall of opposition from key “Republican” legislative leaders like Senate Finance Chairman Hugh Leatherman, House Speaker Bobby Harrell, Senate President Glenn McConnell and House Ways and Means Chairman Danny Cooper. Along with “GOP” Majority Leaders Harvey Peeler (Senate) and Kenny Bingham (House), this cabal of RINOcrat leaders wields absolute power over state government and has spent the last eight years successfully blocking every major reform proposal.
“(The reformers) have some momentum,” one longtime State House observer tells FITS. “But they control none of the machinery of power, and (they) are constantly fighting amongst themselves.”
For example, while the climate may be ripe for certain reforms, any proposal substantially diminishing the power of the legislative branch (or threatening the ability of its current crop of leaders to govern as they see fit) is unlikely to pass, the observer noted.
Which leaves us where, exactly …
And while some are viewing Gov. Mark Sanford’s recent “success” at sustaining budget vetoes as a sign that the legislature is moving in a more fiscally-responsible direction, insiders know full well that Sanford got those results by cutting a deal. Less than a week after his “veto victory,” Sanford signed “the Kremlinator,” a command economic manifesto pushed by Speaker Harrell that dramatically expands government’s role in the state’s economic development efforts.
Quid pro quo, anyone?
More importantly (as we’ve noted), Sanford’s vetoes didn’t “save” the taxpayers one red cent – they simply freed up money that will be spent during the next budget year. Fortunately, one part of the “reform agenda” being pushed by Davis is the creation of a “taxpayer rebate fund” that would make sure future “savings” actually made their way back to the people who pay for government in the first place.
Now … could a reform like that pass in 2011?
“Ask Leatherman and Cooper,” our insider joked.
In other words … hell no.
In addition to the fact that reformers are still on the outside looking in when it comes to holding power (and thus getting anything passed), there continues to be a glaring lack of unity within the reform movement – fissures which weaken it both politically and ideologically.
For example, previous “reform agendas” ignored the pressing need for school district consolidation in South Carolina because Republicans in Spartanburg County (where voters oppose consolidation) threatened to withhold their support if the measure was incorporated. Similar policy rifts on other issues have likewise prevented consensus – a nod to the legislatively-driven regionalism that holds South Carolina back on so many fronts.
Also, multiple lawmakers tell FITS that Haley’s gubernatorial campaign – which has yet to lay out a comprehensive policy agenda of its own – doesn’t want individual legislators getting ahead of her on the policy front while she negotiates with legislative leaders.
Bottom line? While Leatherman and Harrell have proven adept at keeping their RINOcrat troops in line, reformers have consistently been unable to rally their troops around a comprehensive agenda. Hopefully that will change in 2011 … but based on the way things are shaping up we’re not going to hold our breath.