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The final size of South Carolina’s FY 2012-13 budget has yet to be determined – but we know that when it’s all said and done the spending plan will (once again) be the largest in the history of the state.

Oh … and we also know that most mainstream media outlets in the state won’t tell you how big it really is (editor’s note: that’s what she said).

Anyway, a few months after “conservative” Gov. Nikki Haley signed off on record spending increases, her administration proposed a $22.8 billion executive budget (again, the largest spending plan in state history).

Now, the latest version of the FY 2012-13 budget stands at $23.3 billion – at least that’s according to summary control documents provided to FITS. And we’re told that this figure – which would represent a $1.3 billion increase over the previous year’s budget – could soar even higher between now and the time state lawmakers finish their work.

This level of growth is unacceptable for several reasons.

For starters, South Carolina’s state government was already way too big. In 2008, our state had the tenth largest government in the nation in terms of its percentage of gross state product (40.5 percent, for those of you keeping score at home). Given the fact that total state spending soared during the recent recession, this figure is probably even higher today.

Second, income growth in the Palmetto State continues to lag behind the rest of the nation – meaning an already bloated bureaucracy is growing much faster than taxpayers ability to pay for it.

Third, lawmakers are spending tens of millions of dollars in “surpluses” and “savings” on additional government growth because South Carolina currently has no mechanism to rebate this money to the taxpayer. In other words, money that flows into state coffers above and beyond our already excessive growth rate also gets spent (you know … on things like agency bailouts).

So much for having a “Tea Party” governor and a “Republican-controlled” legislature, right?

How much extra spending are we talking about? We don’t know yet … although we’re pulling detailed expenditure data right now in an effort to quantify this “surplus” spending.

Anyway, efforts to rectify this excessive spending have been repeatedly pushed by fiscal conservatives like S.C. Sen. Tom Davis. Unfortunately, Haley hasn’t supported those efforts … and fiscal liberals in the S.C. General Assembly have shot them down.

So the beat goes on …

Anyway, as this year’s state budget continues its inexorable march toward Haley’s desk, FITS will be delving into the surplus dollars and cents being doled out like candy by our politicians … money that we maintain should be going back into the economy, not a government that’s already too big for its britches.