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Guest Opinion: Back Row View to State Government’s Spending Problems

By Senators Vincent Sheheen and Shane Massey
web posted February 11, 2011

We sit on the back row of the state senate with a fairly good view of the good, the bad, and the ugly in our state's government.  One of us is a democrat and  one of us is a republican. But more important than party affiliation is a commitment to responsible and honest government in our state. That's why we have joined together to condemn the recent action of the Budget and Control Board to approve deficit spending by South Carolina agencies. Deficit spending by South Carolina's government is just wrong, and business as usual just doesn't cut it anymore.
In South Carolina, we have a Constitutional requirement that state government budgets be balanced. Unfortunately, the Budget and Control Board voted to violate this principle and allow one agency - so far - to spend beyond its budget. That's right, they voted to allow our state government to spend over 100 million dollars that it doesn't have. Even worse, the Board members made that decision without asking why the Department of Health and Human Services will run out of money with 4 months left in the fiscal year, and they took no steps to ensure this doesn’t happen again. What does all this mean?
It means that next year your state government will start off even deeper in the hole than it already is. It likely means deeper cuts to education, law enforcement, and other core services. It means, once again, our elected leaders have chosen the "easy" way to deal with a crisis. An easy way that will only kick the problem down the path to next year. Instead of choosing to run deficits, tough decisions need to be made now and solutions need to be provided.
We as South Carolinians should demand accountability from our leaders. It is simply not appropriate for an unaccountable board to approve deficit spending. The citizens of this state elect the legislature and governor to set a budget each year. Yet with a waive of the wand, the members of the Budget and Control Board have usurped that responsibility. If revenue is short or cuts need to be made to the budget, agencies should notify the legislature and submit recommendations for debate and decision.
Short circuiting democracy is never the answer. Violating the spirit of the state constitution's balanced budget requirement is never appropriate. Deficit spending is not a plan; deficit spending shows the lack of a plan.
We are joining together to fight wrong when we see it. It's wrong to run illegal deficits. It's wrong to keep kicking this state's problems down the road. It's wrong to fail to come up with a plan to deal with the state's financial problems. And it's wrong to shy away from tough choices that must be made now.

We are proud to lead the fight to try and reverse this deficit spending. That's why we are calling on the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee to investigate this deficit, determine why it happened, and locate funds to reduce or eliminate it. And that’s why we have proposed legislation to prevent this from ever happening again. We encourage you to call your state senators and representatives and urge them to say no to deficit spending. Now more than ever, we need real leadership.
Senator Shane Massey (R) represents Aiken, Edgefield, McCormick and Saluda Counties. He can be reached at ShaneMassey@scsenate.gov . Senator Vincent Sheheen (D) represents Kershaw, Chesterfield, Lancaster Counties. He can be reached at VincentSheheen@scsenate.gov .

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