I won’t take much of your time, but I wanted to let you know about an editorial that appeared in the Charleston Post and Courier today titled “Don’t Scrap the Executive Budget.” I concur with its findings and thought you might find it of interest. Click here to read it, or simply scroll down.
Prior to this administration, governors were not materially involved in the budget process. Our view was that the front row seat of what happens in any legislative session was based on how much you were spending and where you were spending it in that year – and that anything else made for seating in the bleachers. Past governors set out their spending priorities only in the broadest terms, without getting into the details of how the state budget could be balanced and core government functions preserved. When we came into office in 2003, we changed that by delivering to the General Assembly a full Executive Budget, explaining exactly which functions should be funded, to what degree, and the reasoning behind our priorities. We also held interactive, and unprecedented, budget hearings that brought together the best private sector and public sector experts to catalyze discussion and turn ideas into practical recommendations.
These Executive Budgets have been vital in creating a budget blue print that showed how we could fund core services of government without raising taxes. They were important in showing the savings that might come from restructuring and consolidating government.
Once again, I’d encourage you to read the Post and Courier’s editorial here, and pass it along to a friend or relative who may find it of interest. I hope your Labor Day was well spent with family and friends, and wish you all the best as we move into the fall.
Don’t scrap executive budget
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
The Charleston Post and Courier
In an apparent effort to make nice with her fellow legislators, Rep. Nikki Haley says she will forego an executive budget if elected governor and instead work directly with lawmakers on their fiscal plan for the state. To do so would abandon an important advance of the Sanford administration.
Gov. Sanford has annually presented the Legislature with an executive budget setting forth his views of what state taxpayers should fund and at what expense. His budgets have been more detailed than those of his predecessors and have served as a policy statement of executive branch priorities.
The executive budget implicitly recommends the notion that the governor, as chief executive of the state, should be setting the agenda for South Carolina.
Too bad the General Assembly has chosen to disregard Gov. Sanford’s frugal budget message over the years. If legislative budget writers had paid more attention to his cost-savings ideas, the state probably wouldn’t be in quite the dire fiscal circumstances that it now finds itself, the economic downturn notwithstanding.
Rep. Haley’s intention of working with her current colleagues on their budget recognizes that Gov. Sanford has gotten the cold shoulder from the legislative branch on the fiscal front.
She described the antagonistic process between the Legislature and Gov. Sanford in comments to a local Realtors group: “They would pass a bill, he would react. They would pass a budget, he would react. In order to lead with the Legislature, you have to be predictable. You have to let them know what you’re going to do before you do it.”
But better relations between the executive and legislative branches can be accomplished short of abandoning the executive budget process. The state’s dire fiscal situation should generally command a more sustainable course.
If the Legislature produces a budget that isn’t fiscally responsible, the governor has the option of using his line-item veto. And lawmakers have the option to override.
During Gov. Sanford’s tenure, the Legislature has more often than not voted to override his vetoes. It is notable, however, that more of his vetoes were sustained this year — a recognition of the difficult financial problems facing state government.
The next budget is expected to be even tighter than this year’s as state revenues continue to decline. The next governor — whether Rep. Haley or state Sen. Vincent Sheheen — should make a clear statement of spending priorities in an executive budget.
It should serve as the chief executive’s best case for managing the difficult fiscal situation at hand. It shouldn’t preclude a better working relationship between the governor and the Legislature.