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Nikki Haley’s Budget: A Mixed Bag




This website has had few positive things to say about S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley since she took office two years ago.  We believe she’s a liar and a hypocrite, but our real problem with her has nothing to do with either of these character flaws.

Our beef with Haley?  She has brazenly betrayed the limited government ideology she campaigned on in 2010 – choosing instead to back the rampant government growth pushed by her “Republican” colleagues in the S.C. General Assembly.  In addition to the massive $22.8 billion executive budget she proposed a year ago, Haley has also signed off on record spending increases pushed through the legislature by fiscal liberals like S.C. House Speaker Bobby Harrell and Senate Finance Chairman Hugh Leatherman.

Through her first two years in office, Haley has approved all but $273 million of a whopping $45 billion in state spending.  Talk about an underwhelming commitment to slowing the unchecked growth of state government …

This year Haley’s executive budget for FY 2013-14 proposes to spend $6.3 billion in general fund revenues – up from the $6.1 billion appropriated last June.  That’s a 3 percent increase.  However her spending plan claims to reduce total state spending by roughly $400 million – from $23 billion to $22.6 billion.  That’s a 1.8 percent reduction.

How is this possible?  Haley says the reduction in total state spending is due to changes in the way the way state leaders calculate the federal funding they receive – along with the money that gets transferred within the maze of bureaucracies that comprise state government.

Hmmmmm ….

“The reduction in total spending is primarily attributable to the deletion of ‘certified public expenditures,’ which artificially inflate apparent spending by either counting the same dollars twice (for interagency transfers), or else by counting direct federal entitlement payments to beneficiaries, even if those funds are never held in the state’s custody,” her budget states.

Unfortunately, Haley didn’t show her math on this point … so we don’t know if it’s valid reasoning.  Maybe this point will be raised at the public budget hearing that’s required by law to take place within five days of Haley releasing her executive budget.  Or maybe not – as it turns out lawmakers don’t follow that law.

Anyway, Haley deserves some credit for proposing minimal increases to a state budget that has grown astronomically in recent years.  We suspected that she would begin the process of tacking mildly to the right on fiscal issues this year – and that’s exactly what she’s doing here.   Still Haley’s budget – which is really nothing but a collection of state agency presentations submitted to her office – once again fails to do the long-overdue work of identifying state agencies performing non-core functions.

Like this one …

Or this one …

Or this one …

Haley also missed another opportunity to propose letting our state’s higher education establishments to pursue their destiny as private institutions – as well as a chance to push real government restructuring reforms that would streamline government by collapsing agencies (as opposed to what Haley proposed).