Editorial: ‘Shadow government’ not acceptable in S.C.

  • Posted: Monday, July 1, 2013 8:32 p.m.

For the past few legislative sessions, we’ve been promised a bill scrapping the S.C. Budget and Control Board, but like clockwork, it dies just as adjournment comes around.

We hope that changes in the second half of this two-year legislative session.

The proposal would essentially get rid of the much maligned Budget and Control Board, moving the state’s purchasing power into a cabinet department under the governor’s office.

Currently, such responsibilities are handled by the five-member Board made up of two constitutional officers, two high-level legislators, and the governor.

Details of the bill are currently being considered in a conference committee that includes local S.C. Sen. Shane Massey.

Massey said the five-member Board basically decides whether state agencies can run a deficit or borrow money from another agency, effectively ignoring the state’s budget approved by the legislature.

“Every time I talk about the Budget and Control Board on the Senate floor, I refer to it as a shadow government because it doesn’t really matter what we pass in the budget, if they want to spend more money, they can do it,” Massey said.

Unfortunately, a similar measure eradicating the Board failed in the Senate at the end of the past session, leaving it to be re-introduced with the new 2013-14 session.

But with changes to the legislation and new members in the legislature, it gives us hope that the bill will be passed by the end of 2014.

Concentrating power into only a handful of state leaders makes us weary, especially when billions of taxpayer dollars are involved.

Restructuring state government is an idea that’s garnered bipartisan support, including support from Gov. Nikki Haley and her 2010 and likely 2014 opponent, S.C. Sen. Vincent Sheheen.

Haley actually called the board the unaccountable “Big Green Monster” in her 2013 State of the State address, a creative and apt nickname. Sheheen has described state government as being on “auto pilot” because of the lack of oversight inherit in the current system.

The proposed changes would also give much-needed watchdog status to the state legislature, allowing it to hold oversight hearings for state agency decisions.

The legislation offers positive change because it gives the governor more control over executive functions, while requiring the legislature to provide added and necessary checks and balances.

We hope government restructuring continues to be a priority for lawmakers and is able to be moved out of conference committee.

Without compromise, restructuring will not happen and, at this point, something is certainly better than nothing.

Approving the bill would not only move South Carolina into the 21st century, it would create a more efficient and more accountable state government.

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