NIKKI HALEY’S “REFORM IN NAME ONLY” FAILS
For the second year in a row, S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley tried to make a deal with the devil on government restructuring – and for the second year in a row, the devil played her like a fiddle. Haley – who championed aggressive government restructuring legislation while campaigning for office - has attempted to pass a pair of status quo-backed “reform in name only” bills since becoming governor.
Last year, Haley cut a backroom deal with S.C. Senator Hugh Leatherman (RINO-Florence) – a deal she later abandoned. This year, she has worked with S.C. Sen. Larry Martin (RINO-Pickens) on another status quo-authored proposal.
As we noted earlier this week, neither of these bills has come even close to achieving the sweeping overhaul of state government first proposed in 2002 by then-candidate Mark Sanford (a plan written in large part by S.C. Sen. Tom Davis).
“Changing the title on a bunch of agency letterhead doesn’t change the fact that there are far too many agencies in this state to begin with,” we wrote. “We need legislation that alternately consolidates, streamlines and eliminates various state agencies as opposed to just slapping new names on them.”
Haley’s bill passed the House but failed in the State Senate after Martin was unable to convince his colleagues that the proposed legislation would accomplish its intended objectives of streamlining government and increasing accountability.
“Would this (bill) shrink government?” retiring S.C. Senator John Land asked Marin. “Would it reduce the number of employees?”
Martin could only hem and haw in response.
“Over time you will have clearer lines of responsibility,” he said, refusing to answer Land’s specific questions.
There’s a reason Martin couldn’t answer those questions – Haley’s legislation would have actually grown government, and further splinter accountability.
Later during the Senate debate one of Haley’s allies, S.C. Sen. Greg Gregory (R-Lancaster), praised the efforts of Davis and S.C. Sen. Vincent Sheheen (D-Camden) on behalf of real restructuring, acknowledging that the bill’s demise was due to the increasingly toxic relationship between Haley and members of the General Assembly.
In fact Gregory went so far as to acknowledge that had Sheheen defeated Haley in the 2010 governor’s race, lawmakers would have probably been more willing to pass some sort of restructuring bill.
“If (Sheheen) was downstairs instead of somebody else, this bill would have passed already,” Gregory said.
Actually that’s not entirely true. While he’s obviously terrible when it comes to tax and spending issues, Sheheen has consistently pushed for a strong restructuring bill – only to watch as Haley cut deal after deal with State House insiders in an effort to get a political win.
Were he governor, our guess is a much stronger bill would have been passed.
Meanwhile in the S.C. House, another retiring Democrat – S.C. Rep. Boyd Brown (D-Winnsboro) – blistered his colleagues for supporting legislation that he insisted “is not real reform.”
“You don’t streamline government by creating more agencies,” Brown said. “You don’t cut government by shuffling the existing agencies around.”
Last year Brown sponsored an amendment that would have completely abolished the state’s antiquated Budget and Control Board (SCB&CB) and given all of its authority to the governor’s office. That proposal – which we supported – received only seven Republican votes after Haley’s office lobbied against it.
“Y’all keep creating more and more government,” Brown added. “You keep kicking that can down the road a little bit more. I’m paying for it and my generation is paying for it. We’re getting stuck with the bill.”
He’s correct …
Lawmakers need to do away with the SCB&CB – a quasi-legislative, quasi-executive entity that currently controls huge swaths of the executive branch of governments. Then they need to make sure that all of the SCB&CB’s powers are divested into the governor’s office – where they should have been placed years ago.
Such a move may not make state agencies any more efficient – but at least we’ll know who to hold accountable when they fuck up.