Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Give the Governor a Department of Administration and Budget

South Carolina government again finds itself in a financial bind. The budget passed by the General Assembly is going to fall short of the revenues brought in to pay for it.

I will not join those who claim 20/20 hindsight vision that criticize the General Assembly for its budget. Such shots are cheap and easy.

What is not easy, is changing how South Carolina state government does business. When a crisis, such as a hurricane or a unexpected fall in revenue happens, the Governor and other executive officers ought to have more power to act quickly.

In my ideal world, the Governor of South Carolina would have a Department of Administration and Budget under him that he could make emergency measures within. Instead, the Budget and Control Board, complete with its sometimes mammoth waste and unappreciative attitude towards rank and file employees, has to be appealed to.

No other state within in the United States has such a hybrid agency that decides policy. If South Carolina was on the leading edge of state government performance, I would say hooray for our independent thought. However, we are not.

I am not contending, as SCRG and the Governor do, that we should not elect officers such as Treasurer and Comptroller General. Indeed, I think it is essential that executives independent of the Governor have their role in dealing with the states books, so to speak.

However, when there is a crisis, people expect their Governor to act. The average guy does not understand the nuanced politics of the Budget and Control Board and how the General Assembly holds 40% of the decision on Executive acts.

In short, we in South Carolina ought to give the next Governor the power to enforce the laws. That is what an executive does. We should eliminate the Budget and Control Board and create a structure in which the Governor can promptly respond to an emergency. Tough standards can be set to define such an emergency. But, alas, at some point in a crisis, there has to be one person calling the shots.

I don't think much of Mark Sanford's approach to South Carolina government. I think he has failed as a Governor because he is unwilling to compromise and break reforms into pieces. But, imagine, if you will, if a Katrina type storm was about to hit Hilton Head, the worst case scenario for a hurricane strike, with the strong end pounding most of the coast.

Suppose the Governor wanted the SCHP and other agencies such as DSS to go into full operational mode. Suppose someone told him they would exceed their budgets if they did. Should the Governor have to deal with the Budget and Control Board? Suppose the three members of the five member board who do not care for the Governor personally held out. What then?

I hope that never comes to pass. But, if a crisis like that does arise, we ought to have in place a system such as a Department of Administration and Budget, where the Governor can act in strictly defined emergencies to move resources to help the state react to a challenge without a convoluted process.

I know there will be some that will point out that Governor Campbell got things done during Hugo in 1989. However, Governor Campbell was one of those once in a lifetime political figures with a force of personality that made men act beyond their own political agendas. We can not assume that every emergency South Carolina faces will invoke that type of response.

The bottom line is we should allow the Governor of South Carolina to be able to act as an executive in a crisis. The General Assembly will still have control over the overall purse strings. The Governor would merely be able to act in a crisis at the level he is currently held responsible for.

There is other waste within in the Budget and Control Board to discuss, and how its top officials mistreat its rank and file workers, but that is for another post. For this post, let it be clear that Voting under the Influence advocates the elimination of the Budget and Control Board and replacing it with a Department of Administration and Budget under the Governor that is funded and regulated by the General Assembly.

1 comment:

  1. This sounds a lot like what I proposed today ... small world!

    Nice to know I'm not the only loose nut with some ideas.