S.C. Senator Vincent Sheheen may have lost the Palmetto state’s governor’s race last month – but he’s still pushing ideas that he believes will make South Carolina’s state government more efficient and accountable to the taxpayers it’s supposed to serve.
Some of them actually will …
On Thursday, Sheheen rolled out a six-piece reform agenda that includes a number of items that fiscal conservatives can (gasp) support.
“I am pre-filing a legislative agenda that if enacted would fundamentally and dramatically reform the way South Carolina’s Government operates,” Sheheen said in a statement accompanying his agenda. “If adopted, this Agenda for Change would bring responsibility to spending, restructure the governor’s responsibilities and powers, modernize the legislature’s operations, and crack down on waste, fraud and abuse within our government.”
Sheheen’s biggest proposal by far is to create a Cabinet-level Department of Administration – which would inherit numerous responsibilities which are currently delegated to the S.C. Budget and Control Board, a quasi-executive, quasi-legislative governing board that is unique to the state of South Carolina (and not in a good way). Unlike other states – which permit governors to manage their own executive branch of government – in South Carolina numerous executive functions are controlled by this byzantine board, which includes the governor, two legislative leaders and two independently-elected constitutional officers.
It’s a “five-headed monster” that is totally unaccountable to the taxpayers – which is why we believe it should be completely abolished. Unfortunately Sheheen’s proposal cherry picks various Budget and Control Board functions – which doesn’t go nearly far enough.
Sheheen does better, however, in proposing the creation of a statewide Office of Inspector General (OIG). This office would be appointed by the governor and charged with investigating waste, fraud and abuse across state government. Obviously, its powers don’t get at the larger problem in state government (unnecessary spending) but we believe its establishment would serve a long-overdue watchdog function and save tens of millions of dollars annually.
Legislation creating an OIG was introduced last year – by Sheheen and S.C. Sen. Tom Davis – but it languished in Senate President Glenn McConnell’s judiciary subcommittee for two years.
We support Sheheen’s legislation, but in an effort to achieve maximum efficiency we would recommend incorporating several existing government watchdog functions (including those of the Legislative Audit Council) under the OIG umbrella.
Incidentally, eliminating the Budget and Control Board and created an Inspector General’s office were both ideas that were included in our founding editor’s groundbreaking 2008 Manifesto “South Carolina’s 95 Theses” (No. 3 and No. 13, to be precise).
Sheheen’s agenda also proposes eliminating taxpayer-funded lobbying – another idea we have consistently supported in the past.
Sadly, earlier this year a vote to ban taxpayer-funded lobbying by our public schools was defeated in the “GOP-controlled” S.C. House of Representatives by a single vote – with so-called “Republicans” Liston Barfield, Alan Clemmons, Mike Gambrell, Nelson Hardwick, Bill Herbkersman, Davey Hiott, Chip Huggins, Lanny Littlejohn, Steve Parker, Jay Lucas, Gene Pinson, Bill Sandifer, B.R. Skelton, Don Smith and Bill Whitmire joining Democrats in voting against the ban.
That amendment was sponsored by S.C. Rep. Boyd Brown (D-Fairfield).
Sheheen is the second South Carolina Democrat to roll out serious structural reform proposals this week. On Wednesday, S.C. Rep. Bakari Sellers pre-filed legislation that would consolidate the state’s law enforcement agencies as well as its prison and probation agencies. Those are both money-saving reforms that we have supported in the past.
As with any proposed “efficiencies” in government, however, we believe it is vital to make sure that whatever “savings” are achieved are actually rebated to the taxpayers and not spent on growth elsewhere in the budget.
Otherwise they’re not really “savings,” are they?