The Great (Mistaken) SC Budget Debate
Big spending “Republicans’ in the S.C. House of Representatives begin deliberations this week on the 2012-13 state budget – which we’re anticipating will clock in at roughly $23 billion (slightly north of what S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley proposed last month).
And while the mainstream media continues to perpetuate the myth that state lawmakers only appropriate around $6 billion a year, you can count on this website to continue bringing you the truth about the real size of the state budget.
In FY 2011-12 – the current budget cycle – lawmakers appropriated a record $22 billion. That total included $5.5 billion in general funds (i.e. money raised from tax revenues), $8 billion in “other funds” (i.e. money raised from fees and fines assessed on South Carolina citizens) and $8.5 billion in federal funds (i.e. money sent from Washington, D.C.).
The previous year, lawmakers spent $20.8 billion.
Continuing this upward trajectory, Haley’s proposed executive budget would spend a whopping $22.8 billion. That total includes $5.7 billion in general funds, $8.3 billion in “other funds” and $8.8 billion in federal funds.
Tea Partiers are understandably outraged at this turn of events … but the state’s “Republican in Name Only” budget leaders say they like Haley’s plan.
“You may see this year more things in line with the governor’s budget than in the past,” House Ways and Means Chairman Brian White (RINO-Anderson) recently told the Associated Press.
So much for Haley leading a “movement” to “take government back.”
By way of comparison, this website has proposed spending every penny of the estimated $900 million in new money available to state lawmakers this year on individual income tax relief. We’ve also proposed freezing state spending for three years pending an extended bureaucratic review to determine which agencies should be cut, privatized or eliminated.
Of course an informed debate over whether to spend surplus money on tax relief (which we support) or additional government growth (which “Republicans” at the State House support) isn’t going to happen until this state’s mainstream media starts reporting on the actual size of the state budget.
Sadly, they are still refusing to do that, with Associated Press reporter Seanna Adcox referring to the Haley’s “$6 billion plan” in this story from earlier this week.
That’s cute … but what about the other $16.8 billion?
Typically, mainstream media justifies omitting federal funds from its calculations on the grounds that state lawmakers don’t control where that money goes. That’s not true, however. Lawmakers exert tremendous influence over the appropriation of federal funds – not the least of which is their ability to withhold general funds and “other funds” from state agencies that are receiving specific infusions of federal money.
You know … like the $52 million bailout that Haley requested and received last summer from Barack Obama’s highway department.
State lawmakers also make determinations regarding whether or not to “match” specific federal dollars with state funds.
More to the point, lawmakers directly appropriate billions of dollars in state money via the “other funds” section of the budget. This section of the annual state spending plan has been growing by leaps and bounds in recent years thanks to numerous specific fee increases on South Carolina citizens (like those recently proposed recently by Haley’s Department of Natural Resources board chairman).
Lawmakers are directly responsible for these fee increases (and for appropriating the revenues collected from them) and yet reporters refuse to include these “other funds” in their calculations.
We attempted to get an answer from Adcox (the AP’s lead budget reporter) but she did not immediately respond to our request. Assuming she does respond, we’ll be happy to bring you her explanation.
More importantly, why is Haley – who claims to be a fiscal conservative – proposing to grow government by nearly $1 billion at a time when South Carolinians income levels are shriking? As is its custom, her office refused to respond to our request for comment.