By Paul Gable
The S.C. General Assembly continues to move forward with impunity on bills that will cause funding problems for local governments around the state.
H.3374, which deals with the local government fund, has already passed the House and lies in the Senate Finance Committee awaiting action.
The local government fund, now proposed to be renamed the Local Government Revenue Sharing Fund, ostensibly returns a portion of state revenue to counties to help pay for state mandated offices. These include courts, solicitors, magistrates, public defenders, election commission, DSS, county health departments and the like.
Over the past six state budgets, the state general fund has increased by approximately $1 billion in revenue or 18.2 percent. Over the same time, the S.C. General Assembly, ignoring its own law, has cut the local government fund approximately $67.5 million or 24.1 percent.
If H.3374 becomes law, this underfunding would become permanent allowing the S.C. General Assembly to spend more tax money on things like giving $1 billion in tax relief to Boeing while local governments have to use more property tax dollars to fund state mandated agencies.
This is just another example of how bribing corporations to locate in the state, in the name of economic development, hits average taxpayers in the pocket. That’s the part of the economic development story you never hear Gov. Nikki Haley or state lawmakers talk about.
In like fashion, the proposal to essentially force counties to take over maintenance responsibilities and costs for approximately 50 percent of current state maintained roads remains alive and well in Columbia.
H.3579 remains the S.C. House preferred bill on road funding. It is scheduled for a hearing in a House Ways and Means subcommittee on Tuesday.
The bill intends to transfer 50 percent of state roads to counties if the counties do not specifically opt out of taking the roads. But, it is not county government that makes the decision, although it would be responsible for maintaining the roads.
Instead, that decision would be made by a newly reconstituted County Transportation Committee, appointed by the respective county’s legislative delegation.
Additionally, while the bill would slightly increase C Funds, the percentage of state gas tax that is returned to counties, it again bypasses county government by giving the funds to the CTC.
But, the twain between C Funds and county road maintenance costs does not have to meet. Nothing in the law requires the CTC to give the C Funds to the county. The C Funds will only fund a small amount of the overall maintenance costs to counties even if they do come to county government.
This third party agency, the CTC, gets to make all the decisions but have none of the responsibility and the whole program is underfunded anyway.
The S.C. General Assembly will continue to keep most of the tax dollars collected for road maintenance while passing off 50 percent of the roads it currently maintains to the counties.
Isn’t this what state government complains about the feds doing?