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State House Shakeup: Kirkman Finlay Draws Key Budget Assignment

Columbia lawmaker to head up provisos subcommittee …

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Rising fourth-term South Carolina state representative Kirkman Finlay has drawn a key budget subcommittee position ahead of the coming session of the S.C. General Assembly.

Finlay, 48, of Columbia, S.C. will be the next chairman of a House ways and means subcommittee that directs appropriations contained in the state’s annual spending plan – which is fast approaching $30 billion.

Each year, budgets in the Palmetto State are accompanied by dozens of provisos – or stipulations – which instruct state agencies as to how they are to spend (or not spend) taxpayer money appropriated to them in the budget.   In addition to providing instructions and restrictions, provisos can also establish specific spending levels for various functions of government – and are often used at a granular level to reward or punish individual agencies or agency leaders.

Provisos have also been used to establish programs that lawmakers do not wish to make part of permanent law – like the state’s embarrassingly small special needs school choice program.

Not surprisingly, provisos are controversial.  Many government reformers – including this news outlet – have argued they constitute an unnecessary incursion of the legislative branch into executive branch functions.

Finlay’s appointment over this panel is the latest leadership shakeup within the S.C. House of Representatives – which was rocked last week by the ouster of former ways and means chairman Brian White.

(Click to view)

(Via Travis Bell Photography)

As we exclusively reported, White (above) was booted from his powerful post by speaker Jay Lucas owing to concerns that the former’s panel was planning to spend every penny of an estimated $1 billion in new money that’s projected to flow into state coffers this year.  We’re also told there were also concerns regarding the former chairman’s priorities for these funds, including various higher education appropriations that were not viewed by a majority of members as essential expenditures.

White was replaced as ways and means chairman by state representative Murrell Smith of Sumter, S.C. – who is obviously wasting little time putting his team in place.

This news outlet has been cautiously optimistic about the changes in the S.C. House, noting that “the deposing of White clearly represents a significant victory – or at the very least a significant opportunity – for those of us eager to see the Palmetto State’s legislature chart a more fiscally responsible path in the future.”

White “was a big government liberal to his core, and the budgets his committee produced consistently reflected this ideological mooring,” we wrote.

Will Smith and his subcommittee chairmen (including Finlay) do better?

That remains to be seen, but to his credit Finlay is one of the state lawmakers who began sounding the alarm about excessive spending by state lawmakers several months ago – especially as it related to  $177 million budget surplus from the previous (fiscal year 2017-2018) budget cycle.

While we do not agree with him on everything (including his support for the recently approved gasoline tax hike), Finlay has been surprisingly strong on fiscal issues in light of his status as the only Republican lawmaker who represents a legislative district won by Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Democrats have tried to unseat Finlay three times since his election to S.C. House District 75 (map) in 2012, never drawing more than 46 percent of the vote against him.

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Banner: Travis Bell Photography


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