Sunday, Sept. 17, 2006
Soul of budget
board on November ballot
SC Statehouse Report
17, 2006 - - A contest that's not on the ballot in November
could change the face of the future of South Carolina.
At issue is the future control of the state Budget and Control
Board, the odd umbrella state agency that serves as general
manager of a lot of state government. No other state has such
an entity, which is headed by a powerful five-member group
-- the governor, state treasurer, comptroller general, Senate
Finance chairman and House Ways and Means chairman.
In essence, the board is a special check on the relatively
weak power of the South Carolina's executive branch because
it provides state lawmakers with a tool to ensure the legislature's
wishes are carried out.
Prior to the last three years, board members generally acted
in concert in administering the state. Sure, there have been
some contentious issues. But just as federal officials used
to stop partisan bickering when it came to foreign policy,
budget board members generally acted in harmony.
During the term of Gov. Mark Sanford, however, the budget
board hasn't been all peaches and cream. There have been notable
split votes on things like expanding college construction
programs and providing funding to allow state agencies to
defend themselves. In general, the fault line has been between
executive and legislative control of the board, with Sanford
and Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom voting in the minority,
while the two legislative members and State Treasurer Grady
Patterson upheld the more traditional, legislative-focused
role of the board.
But in November, control of the board could shift to Sanford
if a few things fall into place. Supporters say that would
boost the power of the governor, which he needs to put his
platform into place. Critics say it would increase gubernatorial
meddling in day-to-day governance, something at which Sanford
hasn't shown to be too adept. And they say if Sanford controls
the board, it could cause college building programs to grind
to a halt and affect how state employees are hired and fired.
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Two down-ballot elections are key to Sanford taking control:
State Treasurer. If GOP millionaire candidate Thomas
Ravenel ousts Patterson, who has 36 years of experience, Ravenel
may be more likely to side with Sanford on key budget board
issues. And that could be important because if Eckstrom also
won re-election, then the legislative members of the board
(Senate Finance Chair Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence and House
Ways and Means Chair Dan Cooper, R-Anderson) would be in a
Comptroller General. But Eckstrom, the Republican
who knocked off Patterson as treasurer in the 1990s and then
got beaten by Patterson the following election, faces a tougher
than expected reelection to his current job as comptroller
Despite being elected to two different statewide offices,
Eckstrom still isn't that well known across the state. Compare
that to his Democratic opponent, Drew Theodore of Columbia,
whose last name instantly gives him credibility and a leg
up in South Carolina politics. His father, Nick Theodore of
Greenville, served for years as lieutenant governor and ran
unsuccessfully for governor in 1994.
Eckstrom eeked out a coattails win in 2002 against James
Lander. Today, Theodore has a slight fund-raising edge - and
no debt. So if Drew Theodore can use family connections to
slice into the GOP base in his native Upstate, he may be able
to beat Eckstrom, which likely would keep control of the budget
board from Sanford - - even if Ravenel beats Patterson.
Perhaps the biggest unknown is how voters will react in general
in November. At this point, nobody really seems to care. If
that stays the same, political consultants will tell you incumbents
probably will stay in power, which would be good for Patterson
and Eckstrom. But Patterson's age and Ravenel's constant media
prodding could change things. Meanwhile, Eckstrom's checkered
electoral history combined with Theodore's family connections
could cause things to stay the same.
At this point in the election, it's all a bunch of political
what ifs. But if the political stars line up right, control
of the budget board could shift to the executive.
Based on the last four years of state governance, that could
Send your comments to Andy Brack at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His book of commentary, Bugging
the Palmettos, is available for
here for more.
9/17: If it talks
like a duck, then it ...
Another great cartoon from Bill McLemore:
with judicial system
To the editor:
I do believe that the civil judicial process genuinely makes
every effort to ensure a fair and just outcome under heavy
case load and difficult circumstances. (See Commentary,
However, my experience with the SC family court system will
not allow me to fully share (yours) Chief Justice Jean Toal
comments that they are the finest in America. As a plaintiff
in a simple childless divorce case that entered the SC family
court system in 1999, I became disillusioned by the process.
After seven costly emotionally-filled years, the matter remains
needlessly unresolved to this day. Court orders were issued
riddled with fundamental legal and judicial mistakes with
little regard for fairness or cost containment. Frankly, I
have never seen such degree of incompetence in any profession
in my 55 years of life. It is and aloof adversarial contentious
bureaucratic system designed around feeding the revenue opportunities
of state attorneys
-- Terry Housley, Sumter County, SC
Ahead on hydrogen
A look at how you often learn first about things in SC
"More than 50 years of research
at the Savannah River Site has generated piles of research
and loads of scientists with expertise in using hydrogen,
mostly radioactive tritium, for defense purposes. But
with world's depleting petroleum supply that fuels an
increasing thirst for energy, experts say the very thing
being used and studied for years in South Carolina gives
it a huge competitive advantage in the quest for future
From the Associated
"Nearly every state has some sort
of hydrogen initiative as they scramble to discover
ways to cheaply and practically use the element as fuel.
S.C. lawmakers and business leaders believe the Savannah
River Site's work since the early 1950s gives an edge
to a state typically thought of as backward rather than
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