By Paul Gable
Counties and municipalities throughout South Carolina are again asking the General Assembly to obey state law with respect to the local government fund in the state’s general fund budget.
State law Section 6-27-30 requires the General Assembly to put 4.5% of the previous year’s base general fund revenue into the local government fund in the upcoming fiscal year budget.
But, the General Assembly has not fully funded the local government fund since 2008 – in violation of state law.
This hits especially hard on the budgets of the smaller, poorer counties and municipalities in the state, but nobody in Columbia cares.
Combine this with Act 388 of 2007, which limited the ability of local governments to raise revenue on local, owner-occupied property and the continuing effects of the economic downturn since 2008 and you have the formula for squeezing Home Rule to its breaking point.
This may be the ultimate aim of the state government. Still running on its 1895 Constitution, the state’s lawmakers have never completely instituted home rule for local governments. Some, no doubt, wish for a return to the days prior to 1976 when one state senator was elected from each county and ruled the county like Boss Hogg.
In the last several years, the General Assembly has looked to change state law as it deals with the local government fund. In the interim, it has just ignored it.
What would be a better fix would be to update the state’s 120 year old Constitution and completely institute Home Rule for county and city governments.
Local governments don’t need ‘Big Brother’ in Columbia limiting their ability to make local budget decisions while wastefully spending money at the state level.
However, asking state government to give up power in this General Assembly dominated state is probably a fruitless task.
In the meantime, it’s not too much to ask the General Assembly to, at least, adhere to the laws it has passed.