A bill co-sponsored by local S.C. Sen. Shane Massey looks to transform state government, but details must be hashed out in conference committee before it can be moved forward in 2014.
The proposal would dissolve much of the authority of the state’s Budget and Control Board, a five-member panel that controls a variety of the state’s budgetary functions.
Currently, the Board operates as an executive body with the authority to approve state agency spending, including whether agencies can run deficits or borrow money.
The restructuring measure failed in the Senate at the end of the past two-year legislative session, leaving it to be reintroduced for the General Assembly’s 2013-2014 session.
Massey said the bill would strip authority from the Board, giving more executive-related functions to the governor, while adding more oversight authority to the legislature.
The governor, treasurer and comptroller general serve on the Board, as well as the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.
Massey added that the proposal has gained bipartisan support, including from the governor, particularly since it would delineate power in a more sensible way and make government more accountable.
“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.
As an example, he pointed to the Board’s decision to borrow $20 million from the state’s insurance reserve fund to pay for bills associated with the hacking of taxpayer’s personal data in 2012.
“It was really just a creative way to run a deficit without calling it a deficit,” he said about the Board’s decision. The restructuring bill as it stands now would prevent deficits as well as interagency loans to be permitted without legislative approval.
Massey noted that by giving more review power to the legislature, it brings added transparency to state government, especially since the legislature rarely holds oversight hearings.
“It doesn’t mean the legislature would micromanage. We’re getting away from that. But the legislature does need to know what’s going on, and we need to make sure money is being spent appropriately and that policies are being carried out the way the law intends.”
The proposal would see the creation of a cabinet-level agency known as the Department of Administration, which would receive most of the executive duties of the Board.
Even though the General Assembly has adjourned for 2013, the plan can still be considered when the legislature reconvenes next January without having to be reintroduced.
Despite the idea failing in the past, Massey said he’s more confident that the proposal could gain traction due to the legislation’s bipartisan appeal and a different makeup in the legislature after the 2010 and 2012 elections.
Michael Ulmer covers the county government beat for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since March 2013. He is a native of North Augusta and majored in political science at the University of South Carolina.