Sunday, July 22, 2007
GEAR report offers some interesting ideas
JULY 22, 2007 - - A new report that says the state can generate
hundreds of millions of dollars of savings and cash over three
years at the state Budget and Control Board elicits a mixed
On one hand, the 97-page report with 61 recommendations seems
to include some practical good government ideas to make the
state's administrative agency run smoother. But on the other
hand, because many of its authors are cronies of Gov. Mark
Sanford, one wonders whether the report is just a new way
to further ideological debate about cutting government, one
of the governor's passions.
"I can't stress to you enough how much this was not
a partisan deal," said Chad Walldorf, who chaired the
Government Efficiency and Accountability Review and once served
as Sanford's budget chief. "It was about good government
- and making it run better."
The only identifiable Democrat on the nine-person panel was
a South Carolina newcomer, Mike Langrehr, who admits he didn't
vote for Sanford and joined the group to help the state improve
"They need to do something about accountability,"
said Langrehr, who retired to Aiken after serving as the chief
information officer for the state of Maryland.
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As the report rightly points out, there's not really a Democratic
or Republican way to pave roads or run an office. So assuming
the report is offered in an apolitical spirit, here are some
of its good ideas:
- State fleet management: Buy state cars at more
competitive prices, instead of awarding bids at the beginning
of the model year when they're the most expensive. Potential
savings: $2 million a year.
- Fees: The agency should lower administrative fees
that it charges other agencies. Potential savings: $500,000
- Restructure information technology: There are 13
recommendations about the state's information technology
central office, which the report describes as unaccountable
and dysfunctional, particularly to other agencies. As the
report indicates, a total review of the function of the
office would be wise to ensure the state was keeping up
with technology trends and being smart about how it manages
- Forecasting: The report suggests the Board of Economic
Advisers should have access to state Department of Revenue
data to make estimates and should provide an annual report
on its forecasting performance.
- Health plan: It suggests transferring $136 million
in surplus health funds to a trust fund for retiree care.
It also says state employees should use more generic drugs,
which could save $16 million a year.
While many of the ideas in the GEAR report may be good, state
officials should probably be careful to review each measure
to ensure against unintended consequences. One of the problems
with the report appears to be some "squishy" numbers.
Because the authors sometimes don't outline the economic assumptions
in the report, it is hard to figure out whether the assumptions
are correct, which could impact the "savings."
State officials also should be cautious with one overriding
theme in the latter part of the report: cutting state employee
benefits. While benefits certainly are increasing the cost
of state government, cutting benefits to state employees who
already tend to be paid too little will discourage good people
from entering government service. Whether increasing the length
of service to qualify for retirement health care or increasing
the years of service before a state pension kicks in, state
lawmakers need to be careful about fiddling with benefits.
All in all despite some Sanfordian ideological overtones,
the GEAR report appears to be what authors claim - a good-faith
attempt to help the Board improve its service. On its face,
that makes it something lawmakers shouldn't dismiss out of
You can reach Andy Brack, publisher of
SC Statehouse Report, at email@example.com.
of 1876 undercut state government
Cainhoy Riot (Oct. 16, 1876) was one of the many deadly frays
that erupted during the 1876 gubernatorial campaign. As with
other outbreaks of violence in 1876, it involved white gun
clubs and the African American militia, but Cainhoy ended
with a difference: when it was over, more whites lay dead
African Americans came prepared to a Republican political
meeting and hundreds of militiamen attended the meeting, though
for reasons that remain a mystery, they stored their guns
in nearby buildings. They became agitated when Charleston
County Democratic gun clubs began to arrive by steamer from
the city. Democrats demanded "equal time" to speak,
a scuffle ensued, and shots rang out. Soon the African Americans
were breaking out their rifles, while the outnumbered whites
sent the steamer back to Charleston for reinforcements. They
arrived to find the battle over, the combatants dispersed,
and seven dead men - - six whites and one African American.
Statehouse Report has partnered with USC
Press to provide readers with an interesting weekly
historical excerpt about the state. Each excerpt, which
is used with permission and not for republication, is
taken from The
South Carolina Encyclopedia, a 1,077-page book
published in 2006 with entries by almost 600 contributors
and edited by noted historian Walter Edgar. We hope
you enjoy this new feature.
The affair at Cainhoy finally prompted federal action. On
Oct. 17, President Ulysses S. Grant issued a proclamation
ordering all private armed organizations to disband and ordered
more US troops into the state. Soldiers were only a temporary,
piecemeal fix and could not quell all disturbances or protect
all Republicans. In the end, even this small victory undercut
the legitimacy of the Republican-controlled state government.
-- Entry by Richard Zuczek, The
South Carolina Encyclopedia
Another great cartoon by Bill McLemore:
Robbing Peter to pay Paul
To Statehouse Report:
This letter is in support of Senator David Thomas's willingness
to take on the payday loan businesses. [See
Commentary, 3/11] For almost four years I have been
in denial of the fact that I could not manage my financial
I had a checking account; my daughter was on the account
so that she could go to the bank for me. She had a separate
account at the same bank, and account was overdrawn. They
took her overdrafts fees out of my account. I didn't know
it until I went to bank the first of the month. The amount
was $1,200.00. I am on a fixed income and I could not pay
my living expenses for the month, so I went to the payday
loans. I went to three payday stores, rewriting on a $600.00
cash advance paying $90.00 at each store every month, which
was totaling $270.00 a month.
As you already know, you go from one payday loan store to
the other to pay each one. They call each other to see how
much you owe the other one and then they look at your income
and decide how much you can receive from them. They just want
to know that you have enough to pay the fee and re-borrow.
That's what keeps you going back to them. You go to another
payday store get a payday loan to pay them and have money
for your living expenses. When you try to stop the check from
being deposited, by calling the payday loan store, telling
them you will not have the money in the bank and could I make
arrangements to pay them, they still deposit your check. Then
you have bank overdrafts; this month I had $179.00 in bank
I was robbing Peter to pay Paul, not realizing that I was
stealing from myself, and digging myself into a hole. It has
been a nightmare.
-- Marsha Bibb-Goggans Johnson, North Charleston, SC
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