South Carolina lawmakers will gather in the capital of Columbia, S.C. later this month to determine how to spend $2 billion in federal bailout money provided to states in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic. The S.C. Senate will convene at 12:00 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, June 23, 2020 to begin deliberating on the appropriation of this money, while the S.C. House of Representatives will gather at 1:00 p.m. EDT the following day, Wednesday, June 24, 2020.
Leaders of both chambers say they anticipate concluding their business by Thursday, June 25, 2020.
Will they spend this massive amount of money wisely? Doubtful …
Lawmakers last met in May – agreeing to delay decisions on critical matters (including the disposition of failed government-run utility Santee Cooper) until the state’s revenue situation was clearer.
They are also awaiting further clarity on its political situation …
Partisan primary elections are scheduled for June 9, 2020 in South Carolina (next Tuesday) with runoffs set for two weeks later – the same day the S.C. Senate is convening.
In other words, there could be a few lame ducks in the chamber by the time lawmakers get back together … although the vast majority of legislators did not draw opposition during the 2020 election cycle, continuing a disappointing trend of non-competitive elections in the Palmetto State.
This lack of competition means there will be next-to-no accountability over spending decisions related to this massive pile of money – which was handed over to lawmakers by S.C. governor Henry McMaster last month.
In addition to this cash (technically $1.9 billion that arrived in state coffers back in April), another $792 million in federal stimulus money has already been routed directly to individual state agencies – meaning the state has received a whopping $2.7 billion from the federal government.
Also, that total does not include stimulus payments to individual taxpayers or expanded unemployment benefits.
While lawmakers wrangle over the disposition of the remaining stimulus funds, they are set to receive additional information on the state of South Carolina’s finances on June 11. The latest update from the S.C. Revenue and Fiscal Affairs (SCRFA) office – released in early May – offered little clarity on the situation, essentially repeating estimates provided the previous month.
(Click to view)
(Via: Columbia SC Photographer Travis Bell)
Officials continued to call for a $507 million reduction in general fund revenues for the current fiscal year – which ends on June 30, 2020. The second general fund revenue estimate – for the fiscal year set to begin on July 1, 2020 – currently stands at $701.8 million below initial projections.
To be clear: These are not budget cuts. These are lowered estimates for surpluses – massive surpluses, at that.
Also worth remembering? Lawmakers have been growing state government by more than $1 billion per year for the last decade – with nothing to show for it but deteriorating economic, academic and infrastructure outcomes.
And the last time we checked, there was $3.9 billion sitting in surplus funds for state agencies and another $1.5 billion sitting in surplus funds for school districts.
In other words, the need for a massive federal bailout of state government is dubious … at best.
In response to the latest SCRFA projections, lawmakers froze spending last month at existing levels. According to our sources, they do not plan to adopt a new spending plan until the fall.
Count on this news outlet to hold them accountable for all of their spending decisions … and count on us to continue providing our readers with important context on state finances that they are not getting from the local mainstream media.
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