For the last decade, reform-minded politicians in South Carolina have been pushing the notion of “government restructuring.” The idea is simple: To streamline government in such a manner that it costs less and works better.
Those two core goals – efficiency and accountability – ought to be at the heart of every proposal to restructure our state’s totally broken, totally wasteful and totally corrupt state government. Unfortunately they haven’t been lately … in fact recent proposals pushed by S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley (and written by our state’s status quo special interests) would actually grow government and reduce accountability.
That’s the opposite of what needs to happen …
During his 2002 gubernatorial campaign, former S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford unveiled what we consider to be the gold standard for restructuring in the Palmetto State – a sweeping plan which would have consolidated the vast majority of independently elected statewide offices within his cabinet. In fact only the S.C. Attorney General’s office would have remained independently elected under the Sanford plan.
But putting positions like the Lt. Governor, S.C. Superintendent of Education and State Treasurer in the governor’s cabinet (a.k.a. “constitutional officer restructuring”) is only one part of the puzzle. The state’s executive branch must be further “unsplintered” by getting rid of the S.C. Budget and Control Board, a quasi-executive, quasi-legislative entity which performs a broad swath of administrative functions which ought to be the exclusive purview of the governor’s office.
Our state must also rid itself of a host of unaccountable boards and commissions which oversee additional executive functions – and restore to the executive branch the exclusive right to select judges (with the advise and consent of the State Senate).
These are three common sense steps which would (at long last) give voters in South Carolina the opportunity to elect a leader every four years – and then hold that leader accountable for their performance.
Unfortunately, after rolling out bold campaign proposals in 2002 – Sanford couldn’t get his initiatives through the S.C. General Assembly, which was eager to maintain its grip over the executive branch. And Haley – after making a deal with the devil on a watered-down restructuring bill – has also hurt the case for restructuring by running a totally inept cabinet.
So … what’s the latest on “restructuring” in South Carolina?
Sadly, it’s more of the same. Haley’s current proposal – which is basically the same status quo bill she put forward last year – would not shrink government. Nor would it streamline government. Nor would it create savings for taxpayers (assuming the S.C. General Assembly ever creates a mechanism to make savings real).
In fact in addition to its numerous other shortcomings Haley’s legislation would actually preserve the S.C. Budget and Control Board – although it would give the entity a different name (the “State Fiscal Accountability Authority”).
This “destructuring” bill passed the S.C. Senate this week with Haley’s support – although it did so over the vocal objection of nine State Senators led by fiscal conservative champion Tom Davis, (R-Beaufort).
“The goal of restructuring in South Carolina is, or at least ought to be, truly restoring a constitutional separation of powers and, in particular, lessening the stranglehold over all three branches of state government now exercised by the General Assembly,” these Senators wrote in a joint statement. “Settling today for a severely watered-down version of restructuring, we believe, was a mistake.”
We agree …
There is no point to passing a “restructuring” bill if the legislation does not achieve the essential goals of restructuring – efficiency and accountability. To approve legislation which fails to accomplish these objectives isn’t “restructuring” anything, it’s just giving the same old status quo a new name.
Given the demonstrated failure of its nineteenth century government to function in the twenty-first century, South Carolina must truly solve its structural problems – not re-label them. Our citizens simply cannot afford more “reform in name only” from politicians who prefer credit for hollow victories to substantive change.
Anyway, props to Senator Davis (and State Senators Lee Bright, Kevin Bryant, Tom Corbin, Shane Martin, Katrina Shealy, Paul Thurmond, Ross Turner and Tom Young) for taking a stand this week on behalf of real reform.