By Paul Gable
The disconnect between the SC General Assembly and local political sub-divisions is highlighted by excess state budget appropriations.
House bill H 4320 amends the FY 2016 budget bill, H 3701, to appropriate excess state revenues certified by the SC Board of Economic Advisors.
Dealing with just three sections of H 4320 demonstrates how devious the SC General Assembly remains in limiting the ability of local governments to fund their services while taking care of its members.
According to H 4320, the SC Board of Economic Advisors has certified recurring general fund revenue for FY 2016 of $150 million (Section 1). This is additional recurring money that was not anticipated at the beginning of the legislative year.
In addition, the board certified $150.2 million in excess revenue collected during the current fiscal year (Section 3).
Those two excess revenues total slightly over $300 million.
But, that isn’t enough for the SC General Assembly. In Section 5 of the bill, state legislators reduced the state contribution to the Local Government Fund by $20.425 million.
In a year when the state experienced $300 million in excess revenue, the SC General Assembly decided to reduce its contribution, mandated by state law, to the LGF by over $20 million.
State law requires the SC General Assembly to return 4.5% of the current year’s general fund revenue back to local governments through the LGF in next year’s state budget, unless an exception is passed by the SC General Assembly in separate legislation. The SC General Assembly has gotten quite good at passing legislative exceptions.
The LGF contribution to local governments is designed to help offset the cost to local governments of state mandated offices operating in counties such as DSS, Health, Solicitors and the like.
Of this $320.625 million, H 4320 appropriates a total of $226.3 million through the SC Department of Transportation to County Transportation Committees. The money is mandated to be spent on paving, rehabilitation, resurfacing and/or reconstruction.
This may sound like a good idea until it is taken into consideration that County Transportation Committees are independent bodies appointed by the county legislative delegation.
State legislators appoint their ‘good ole boy’ buddies to the CTC so they can get pet projects funded without their fingerprints directly on the project.
It only takes a call from a state legislator to the CTC to get ‘Farmer Dan’s’ road paved because ‘Farmer Dan’ is a good campaign contributor to that legislator.
In the meantime, counties are often faced with cutting services and/or raising taxes to fund local DSS and Health offices.
Nearly everybody is happy. ‘Farmer Dan’ gets his road paved. The state legislator takes care of a campaign contributor. The CTC members assure their continued appointment to a body that really acts as a slush fund for political insiders in most counties.
And who in the hell cares about DSS or Health offices and local government anyway?
Not members of the SC General Assembly. They are too busy planning their next foreign vacation to be paid for by excess campaign contributions.
These proposed excess revenue expenditures are not set in stone as a conference committee of House and Senate members must meet to finalize the bill that will ultimately be voted on.
However, that they have come this far is indicative of just how little state legislators care about local government and to what lengths they are willing to go to strangle them.