Many years ago, I submitted a blueprint for the reconfiguration and reimagining of the state of South Carolina’s busted, broken, bloated and brazenly corrupt system of government – which remains mired in the morass of its duplicative, dysfunctional, dystopian-inducing constitution of 1895.
You can read this treatise here.
Among the key recommendations of that document was getting rid of the Palmetto State’s current byzantine maze of health care bureaucracies and replacing them with a singular health care agency. Another suggestion was to establish a standalone environmental agency out of the myriad “environmental, conservation and natural resource functions” of the state.
Fifteen years later, the status quo uni-party running the S.C. General Assembly has finally taken a step toward those goals – although in its typical anti-taxpayer, pro-bureaucrat fashion it has neglected to do the hard work of consolidation and elimination and chosen instead to just reshuffle its inefficient alphabet soup agencies around.
Earlier this year, lawmakers approved (and governor Henry McMaster signed into law) S. 399 – a law which abolishes the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) and creates in its place a state Department of Public Health (SCDPH) and a state Department of Environmental Services (SCDES).
That’s a lot of new letters – and a lot of new dollars coming out of taxpayers’ pockets.
The move – which I support in theory – would be great if these two agencies were absorbing all of the attendant health care and environmental bureaucracies currently operating in the Palmetto State. And undertaking efforts to ensure these consolidations created streamlined structures providing more efficient, better coordinated delivery of services.
There are tens of millions of dollars – maybe even hundreds of millions of dollars – to be saved annually in South Carolina by restructuring government based on functions and outcomes as opposed to continuing to plow them through the same failed maze of bureaucracies.
Unfortunately, the status quo uni-party is doing neither of those things … which even the left-of-center mainstream press seems to understand.
“For all its boasting about conservative lawmaking, one of the most consequential things the S.C. Legislature did this year was to grow our state government,” editorial writer Cindi Ross Scoppe noted earlier this year for The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier, citing the added $21 million (initially) and $14 million (annually) taxpayers must shell out to maintain these two new bureaucratic behemoths.
“The only way lawmakers can even begin to recoup those funds and turn this divorce into a positive change is by following through on the one legitimate reason for splitting DHEC — to merge our state’s alphabetical array of public health agencies into one,” Scoppe added.
Scoppe even hit the nail on the head as to why real change isn’t happening, namely “special interests — from agency directors and board members to businesses that currently contract with the agencies — who have always fought to preserve a status quo that they see as beneficial to themselves.”
I rarely say this (because it is rarely true), but Scoppe is 100 percent correct.
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South Carolina’s legislature claims it’s “restructuring” its antiquated and inefficient government. It isn’t. It is taking broken pieces from one box and dumping them into two boxes – while ignoring the stacks of boxes full of broken pieces on the wall behind them.
One example of the cost and confusion caused by this reshuffling is scheduled to come up at this week’s meeting of the S.C. Joint Bond Review Committee (SCJBRC) – the agency which oversees all the red ink accumulated by state government.
Wait … red ink? That’s right … that whole constitutional “balanced budget” requirement seems to have been interpreted by the uni-party as a mere suggestion.
Anyway, lawmakers controversially mandated in the current budget that “one or all the state agencies or their successor agencies currently located on Bull Street in the City of Columbia” must be relocated in time for the agency reshuffle on July 1, 2024.
The problem? It’s unclear whether they have the cash set aside to pay for the move.
According to the agenda (.pdf) from this meeting, a lease offer on a sprawling office complex on Colonial Life Boulevard off of Interstate 126 just northwest of downtown Columbia, S.C. was recently withdrawn.
Take a look …
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What happened? According to a letter from S.C. Department of Administration (SCDOA) director Marcia Adams, the prospective buyer of this property backed out of its lease offer to the state because it had an “unfavorable view of the statutory required non-appropriations clause contained in the lease.”
For those of you who don’t speak bureaucrat-ese, that’s another way of saying nobody in their right mind is going to sign a long-term lease with the state absent a guarantee the state is going to fund that lease – and fund it for its duration.
Nor should they …
Why doesn’t the state just buy the property?
That’s a good question … but wherever this new agency winds up being headquartered, that process is shaping up to be every bit as big a goat rodeo as the “restructuring” that led to its creation in the first place. Bigger picture? Government “restructuring” itself is sadly turning into yet another example of how insider interests and their bureaucratic allies hoard power and money – as opposed to the efficient, responsible, meritocratic administration of core government functions that should be its goal.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children.
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