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With S.C. Gov.-elect Nikki Haley refusing to submit executive budgets in an effort to play nice with state lawmakers, outgoing S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford has apparently decided to take one last whack at providing the General Assembly with a spending plan that could be used to run state government.

Sanford released his final executive budget on Tuesday, a document that he says “prioritizes spending in yet another tough budget year.”

Nonetheless, Sanford’s proposed budget spends a total of $23.1 billion – which if implemented would easily make it the largest spending plan in South Carolina history. The vast majority of that money – 47 percent – would go toward what Sanford describes as “health and protection” services. Nineteen percent would go toward higher education, 15 percent to K-12 education and 8 percent to “economic development.”

Based on information provided by the S.C. General Assembly, we’ve been calculating the cost of the current budget at $20.8 billion – making it the state’s largest spending plan ever. Sanford actually pegs the cost of the FY 2010-11 spending plan much higher – at $21.8 billion. Assuming this larger figure, his “purchase plan” would spend an additional $1.3 billion on top of that amount.

That’s a six percent increase … well above the growth in population plus inflation, and certainly well above the ability of South Carolina taxpayers to sustain given their declining income levels. With respect to general fund dollars, Sanford’s plan recommends spending $5.4 billion in FY 2011-12 – an increase of roughly $300 million over the current budget.

That’s another six percent spending hike.

In both cases, the spending increases are due almost exclusively to soaring health care costs. Specifically, Sanford’s budget would spend a total of $11.1 billion on health care (up from $9.4 billion in the current budget). As far as general fund dollars are concerned, health care spending would increase from $1.2 billion to $1.5 billion under Sanford’s plan.

Frankly, we’re not impressed with this document … not even a little bit.

In fact of all of Sanford’s executive budgets, this one is by far the worst – which is saying something considering the steaming pile of status quo sh*t he released a year ago. It’s also the most disingenuous. For example, in submitting a proposal that grows state government by $300 million (or $1.3 billion if you take the larger figure), Sanford has the audacity to say that he has found $265 million in “savings.”

Sheesh …

What happened to this guy?

Seriously … where is the structural reformer who was going to change the way government did business? Where is the staunch fiscal conservative who was going to slash spending?

He’s long gone, apparently. Off to Argentina, we suppose …

That’s too bad. With Haley poised to give up her role in the budget process in an effort to cow-tow to legislators (a decision Sanford rightly chided her for), South Carolina taxpayers needed (and deserved) much better than this from their departing governor.

Still, to his credit at least Sanford bothered to put forward a plan. That’s obviously more than Haley can say …