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The S.C. House Ways and Means committee officially published its version of the FY 2011-12 state budget on Tuesday … a record-setting $21.6 billion spending plan that represents an $800 million increase over the current year’s expenditures.

For those of you keeping score at home, the proposed Ways and Means budget would spend $5.3 billion in state general fund revenue, $7.9 billion in state fees and fines and $8.4 billion in federal funds.

All of those numbers are up from the current budget … which pokes a big hole in lawmakers’ contention that they are facing “a billion dollar shortfall” for the coming year.

State lawmakers originally appropriated $21.1 billion a year ago, although they were later forced to pare back those expenditures to around $20.8 billion. Recent data now shows a surplus of $371 million for the current fiscal year on top of those appropriations – although $100 million of that money has already been committed to a bailout of the state’s Medicaid agency, which is running a $225 million deficit.

We won’t know exactly how big the current budget is until August. That’s when the Comptroller General will close the books on the current fiscal year – which ends on June 30.

S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley has not presented an executive budget to state lawmakers. She has convened a budget panel to examine state spending, although this group has been meeting in private – the latest transparency headache for her administration. Haley has promised to be more involved in the state budget debate than her predecessor, former S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford.

As the state budget begins making its way through the legislative process, we look forward to not only providing you with accurate data on its true size, but continuing our efforts to expose and eliminate waste and unnecessary spending within that spending plan.

We also intend to keep pushing for a taxpayer rebate fund that would give lawmakers the option of putting surplus revenue (and money they claim to “save”) back in your pocket.

(To read more about the true size of the state budget, click here).