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#SCStateHouse: Budget Deal Reached

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A month-and-a-half ago, this news site reported exclusively on a looming battle over the South Carolina state budget.

For the last six weeks, this battle raged between leaders of the S.C. House of Representatives and the State Senate.  More specifically, it raged between House ways and means committee chairman Brian White and Senate finance committee chairman Hugh Leatherman.

This week – just three days before the new spending plan is scheduled to take effect – White and Leatherman were able to reach an agreement on roughly $67 million in disputed deficit spending.

Will their underlings approve of the plan?  We’ll know soon …

Frankly, we are shocked things were held up this long over what amounts to a rounding error in the largest budget in state history.

How big is this year’s spending plan?

While you won’t see this number widely reported in the mainstream media (which typically only cite the “general fund” section of the spending plan), the final fiscal year 2018-2019 state budget clocks in at a whopping $28.6 billion – and that’s before we add food stamp money that flows through the scandal-scarred S.C. Department of Social Services (SCDSS).

State lawmakers surreptitiously took this money off of the books four years ago – when annual expenditures on food stamps in South Carolina totaled around $1.5 billion.

So we don’t know exactly how big this budget really is … only that it is either closing in on $30 billion or has already eclipsed $30 billion (again, depending on food stamp outlays).

One thing is clear, though: It is not an “$8 billion budget” – which is what the mainstream media would have you believe.

The mainstream press only cite the portion of the budget that’s funded through state tax receipts.  They fail to include in their calculations the $8.7 billion in federal funds routed through state agencies or the $11.7 billion in money collected in fees and fines from state taxpayers (a.k.a. the “other funds” section of the spending plan).

In other words, that’s $20.4 billion they don’t tell you about …

Why doesn’t the media give the public the full story?  Good question …

Our view on that is simple, though: Taxpayers deserve to know about every dime of their money that is being spent (and in far too many instances, every dime that is being wasted).

All told, spending is set to climb by $1.2 billion (or 4.3 percent) from the previous year.  Oh, and none of that incorporates state government’s recent surge in borrowing – a portion of which was responsible for the recent impasse.

As we exclusively reported back in May, House members wanted to spend $54 million in funding for a desperately needed crime laboratory at the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) and $13 million for facilities upgrades at the S.C. Department of Corrections (SCDC).  Senate leaders wanted to earmark these funds toward multiple pork barrel projects – including numerous boondoggles bound for Democratic districts.

In the final version of the budget, SLED got its money … but SCDC got screwed.

As we have often argued, it is simply unacceptable for core functions of government like a crime lab and security enhancements at our state’s prisons to be funded via deficit spending.  Or, in the case of the SCDC money, to be completely shortchanged.  After all, our state spends billions of tax dollars each year propping up a non-essential higher education system (including guaranteed raises for six-figured educrats who stoke snowflake rage).

Why can’t it adequately fund the things it is supposed to do?

Bigger picture, this budget is nothing but a perpetuation of the same failed spending structure that has held South Carolina back for decades.

“It represents an ongoing commitment to pumping larger and larger sums of money into the same demonstrably ineffective bureaucracies – which of course will yield the same failed outcomes,” we wrote earlier this year.

Nothing ever changes because nothing is ever truly fixed.

And despite having the power of the bully pulpit and the veto pen, “Republican” governors – including Nikki Haley and Henry McMaster – have utterly failed to rein things in.  In fact, McMaster’s vetoes last year were so totally insignificant lawmakers didn’t even bother to address them.

Embarrassing …

Again, South Carolina will never experience better outcomes unless it makes better use of the resources its hard-working people send to state government.  That means figuring out what government should – and shouldn’t – do, and prioritizing core functions based on need.

Unfortunately, our “Republican” legislature – for the second decade in a row – is throwing good money after bad.

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