Sunday, May 27, 2007
Perspective shows extra budget money needed
MAY 27, 2007 - - Depending on how you look at something,
you form an opinion. But if you give it a different look -
- take a different perspective - - your opinion might just
So it is with the state's whopping $7.3 billion budget.
Self-anointed budget hawks are crying foul (sorry for the
pun) because of the sheer size of the budget, which includes
more than a billion dollars of new spending compared to last
year. The headlines on commentaries rage, "Bloated budget
stunts our state's economic growth" and "Budget
From these peoples' perspectives, there is just too much
money being spent. They want more tax cuts, like they always
do. Gov. Mark Sanford recently railed in a column that the
state's budget has grown 40 percent over the last four years
- - much faster than economic growth and people's paychecks.
He's right. But his perspective and that of others are only
short-term views because they work for the argument that the
government shouldn't get so much money and more should be
returned to people.
If, however, you look at the whole budget process over a
longer term - say 10 years - you might come to this realization:
Using just the last four years to make your argument is a
little dodgy because four years ago, the state was in a fiscal
recession. In fact, the state's 2003-04 general fund budget
actually dropped almost a half billion dollars to $5 billion
from $5.4 billion the previous year.
So let's go a little further and look at a 10-year period.
In the 1997-98 budget, lawmakers appropriated $4.7 billion
in state money to cover government expenses. That number dipped
slightly the following year, but then grew at about $200 million
a year through 2001-02. During the next two years as the recession
pinched, appropriations dropped significantly below what was
projected. It took until the 2005-06 budget year for legislative
spending to grow to $5.6 billion - - the level it should have
reached three years earlier.
In other words, for several years, the state received much
less money - billions, in fact -- than it would have if budget
growth had been steady in the early part of the decade. During
these lean years, state government cut programs and cut services
significantly to become leaner.
In the same time span, costs of providing services went up
dramatically. Health care costs spiraled. Leaders put significantly
more resources into education. Borrowing led to increases
in debt payments.
Today's state government, in fact, is remarkably smaller
than it was 10 years ago. For example, despite the fact that
the state's population grew from 3.9 million in 1997 to 4.3
million today, there are 5,000 fewer state employees today.
Other examples: while spending on education and health care
have far exceeded average increases, state dollars for corrections
have gone up relatively little - - only 16.7 percent over
10 years. State appropriations for higher education have gone
up 38 percent, still less than inflation and growth, which
caused colleges to raise tuition dramatically.
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So with the whining over the state appropriating too much
money this year and not giving enough back to the people,
consider the good news: South Carolina is out of a recession.
Growth in revenues is occurring, which shows we're getting
As far as the pending budget, we're back on track to where
we should be based on projections of population growth and
inflation. Unfortunately, the state has lost about $3.4 billion
in revenues from the bad years, which really hurt the state's
long-term infrastructure needs and crippled smaller agencies
trying to provide the services demanded by the public.
Bottom line: A little longer perspective shows how much the
state has lost over the last few years. Now, as with all cycles,
the state is starting to plug the holes that have been leaking
for far too long. If South Carolinians want good government,
they have to realize they can't get something for nothing.
You can reach Andy Brack, publisher of
SC Statehouse Report, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
prices have different impacts
Another great cartoon by Bill McLemore:
Willing to buy bridge for more guns
To the publisher
"Guns in schools not smart." [Commentary,
5/13] The very title suggests many students will have
guns. Not so. Concealed Carry Permits apply to those 21 years
or over, not Freshmen or Sophomores or Juniors. The law should
read "may carry on campuses". The Regents can control
actual policy. Students in dormitories have a large weapon
security concern from the number of students in the building;
students residing off campus have a lesser concern for the
safety of the firearm from theft. Others have noted that 6%
of the populace will get a CCW Permit, but only 3% will actually
carry a weapon. That is sufficient to deter criminal activity
where large numbers of people are gathered. Those faculty
members with CCW Permits is sufficient for deterrence on campus;
visitors with CCW Permits are few in number.
You say "They're made for killing people." WRONG.
Hunting is the prime purpose for long guns; pistols are for
personal defense. I have owned guns for fifty years and have
yet to kill anybody. Even with a CCW the firing of the weapon
is the LAST resort. Courts have ruled that police do not have
to respond to your call, even as your door is being kicked
in. I suspect if you or your wife were being assaulted or
raped, you might welcome the intervention of a CCW holder.
The English gun ban and Australian gun ban did indeed result
in fewer gun deaths, but the crime rate skyrocketed with many
deaths by knife. The most effective defense for the inhabitant
had been outlawed.
I and thousands of CCW holders will buy that bridge.
-- Bernard W. Fatig, Hartsville, SC
- 4/22: Enjoy
seeing them while you can, Janie Behr, Florence,
- 4/15: Great
piece, Pat Jobe, Greenville, SC
- 4/4: SC
should take head out of sand, Daniel Berler, Mount
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