S.C. Statehouse Report
Sunday, Jan. 9, 2005
VIEW: http://www.statehousereport.com/columns/05.0109.sanford.htm


COMMENTARY
Peek behind spin on new executive budget
By Andy Brack
SC Statehouse Report

JAN. 9, 2005 - - When a budget is given a name that sounds like it comes from an infomercial, it’s time to step back and see if something else might be going on beyond the public relations spin.

In the first week of the new year, Gov. Mark Sanford unveiled his new “Fiscal Fitness Challenge,” a 346-page tome that would rival the best government doorstops in the world.


The above photo isn't real, but if budgeting for outcomes is routinely used, it could eventually become reality. (Photo Illustration by StatehouseReport.com)

In a letter to lawmakers, Sanford explained this year’s annual list of executive spending and policy priorities is a little different from past budgets, which focused on areas to increase or decrease spending or how to use new monies.

“This year we asked agencies to submit their funding requests by activities they perform,” Sanford wrote Jan. 5. “These more than 1,500 activities were divided into purchasing priorities regardless of the agency performing them.”

In other words, instead of keeping most of government spending the same and looking only at new stuff, Sanford is prioritizing all government spending. And based on agency priorities, functions or services may or may not get funded.

This latest budgeting fad is outlined in a 2004 book called The Price of Government. According to the authors’ Web site, it promotes a “radically different approach to budgeting - - Budgeting for Outcomes - - that focuses on buying results for citizens rather than cutting or adding to last year’s spending programs.”

On the surface, it might sound good - - you give the tax money available to projects that are priorities. If there’s not enough money, you don’t fund projects or programs that have lower priorities.

Before being swayed by this simplistic budgeting idea that state editorialists seem to be falling all over themselves about, state legislators should look at the bigger picture.

ALSO THIS WEEK

McLEMORE'S WORLD: The cost of reform

FEEDBACK: Too much Leatherman

SCORECARD: Thumbs up and mixed reviews

SUBSCRIPTION INFO

FEEDBACK POLICY

We encourage your feedback. If you'd like to respond to something in SC Statehouse Report, please send us an e-mail. We reserve the right to edit for length and clarity. One submission allowed per month. Submission of a comment grants permission to us to reprint. Please keep your comment to 250 words or less:

feedback@statehousereport.com

This kind of budgeting seems to rule out flexibility in spending. More than anything, it seems like a cynical attempt to figure out more ways to cut government spending.

Let’s create an over-the-top example to highlight potential problems inherent with the new budgeting theory. Let’s say a motorist wanted to drive from Columbia to Charleston. He could take the Interstate or back roads. Because of Budgeting for Outcomes, however, only Interstates got funding. Unfortunately, the motorist decided to take a back road. As he was driving through Orangeburg County, he came upon something that blocked the road. A sign said: “Bridge out; state doesn’t have priority to fix it.”

State government is about more than budgeting gimmicks and accounting tricks. It’s about providing services that help people. Government is the vehicle to provide these services because it often has the easiest delivery structure. And many times, government delivers the services because it’s the right thing to do.

Over the last three years, state government has downsized spending due to the slower economy. The so-called government “fat” is gone. We’ve seen it in hundreds of state employees who have lost their jobs, education and other programs that have gone unfunded and state prisons that don’t have enough guards or metal detectors.

But Sanford has a huge libertarian streak. He seems hell-bent on cutting as much of state government - - no matter the cost to employee morale or the needs of the state - - as he can in his time as the state’s chief executive.

So by changing the way budgets are talked about, he can find new ways to cut money and make government smaller.

Fortunately, state legislators are the ones who are tasked with budgeting monies for the state and allocating tax dollars. Sanford’s budget is a helpful guide, but it’s only a guide - - despite all of the public relations spin.

Bottom line: It’s good to prioritize. It’s good the governor presents a spending plan that doesn’t raid trust funds or raise taxes. But it may be dangerous to use a new budgeting theory to buttress arguments to cut even more spending that may not need to be cut.


RECENT COMMENTARY

McLEMORE'S WORLD
1/9: The cost of reform

The latest from cartoonist Bill McLemore:


LEARN MORE DAILY

The best way to get South Carolina news is to augment your morning paper and TV show with SC Clips, a daily executive news summary compiled from more than 30 state newspaper and TV sources. It's delivered every business day and is packed with news of statewide impact, politics, business and more. Subscriptions are affordable at $30 per month -- and less for business subscribers. More: SC Clips.


FEEDBACK
1/6: Too much named after Leatherman

To the editor:

I could not agree more with your Jan. 2 article (Commentary). Living in Florence,
I can't look left and right without finding something named after District 31's incumbent State Senator Hugh Leatherman.

If I want to go to Columbia, I have to pass through Leatherman Interchange. If there's an event at Francis Marion University I want to attend, it is probably being held in the McNair auditorium (connected to the Leatherman Science building). I don't understand why Sen. Leatherman would even bother with billboards or yard-signs during his re-election campaigns…everything already has his name on
it.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I must tell you that in this last election my older brother, Stephen J. Wukela, was the Democratic candidate running against Sen. Leatherman. I must admit to a personal frustration born from having to run against a name that is literally on the state map. But my personal frustration pales in comparison to my civic disgust that any legislator would argue against public
financing of elections on the one hand only to embrace those same public funds to pay for, as you said, stationary, business cards, plaques, road signs, and any number of unseen charges connected to plastering his/her name all across the district.

It's not bad enough that we are essentially honoring these men and women for simply doing their jobs as public servants. We have to listen to their hypocrisy as well.

-- Michael Wukela. Florence, SC

SOUTH CAROLINA SCORECARD

Here's a "thumbs up" and "thumbs down" related to various political events from the past week:

Thumbs up

DeMint. Hats off to new U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., who was sworn in Tuesday.

S.C. Chamber. Congrats to the Chamber for starting to push wage increases for the state.

Mixed reviews

Sanford. Gov. Mark Sanford gets an A for effort with his new budget, but not much beyond that because of the impact of it on higher education and the structure of state government.


SUBSCRIPTION INFORMATION
How you can subscribe to the full edition of the report

The above version of S.C. Statehouse Report is the free edition. Our paid version, which costs about $100 per month, offer a weekly legislative forecast packed with information that can keep you and your business on the cutting edge.

Notes veteran lawmaker Sen. Glenn McConnell: "Statehouse Report gives an inside practical report of weekly problems with and progress of legislation. It reviews the whole landscape."

In each issue of Statehouse Report, you'll get::

Hot issue -- an early peek at weekly commentary on something really big. Last year, we continually beat other news organizations in finding major trends in issues, from teacher and budget cuts to wetlands proposals.

Agenda -- a weekly forecast of the coming week's floor agenda

Radar Screen -- a behind-the-scenes look at what's really going on in the General Assembly

McLemore's World -- an early view of our respected cartoonist Bill McLemore.

Tally Sheet -- a weekly review of all of the new bills introduced in the legislature in everyday language

Scorecard -- A Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down of major political/policy events for the week.

Calendar -- a weekly list of major meetings for the House, Senate and state agencies.

Megaphone -- a quote of the week that you'll find illuminating.

To learn more about subscriptions, contact Andy Brack at: brack@statehousereport.com

 

Learn more about Statehouse Report

  Copyright 2005, Statehouse Report LLC, which is affiliated with The Brack Group, Charleston, S.C.
Retransmission or reproduction of more than one copy is prohibited without express permission of the publisher. For additional information, including subscription prices, go to
http://www.statehousereport.com/.