Surprise, Surprise, Surprise

When it comes to our State’s Budget, I thought I had seen it all in my four short years. Boy was I wrong! This year it’s a surprise every other day and they’re the kind that would even make your average Days of Our Lives fan head spin!

In the past it was things like the overwhelming refusal to sustain hardly (any) Governor Vetoes; the earmark for Basket Weaving in one county, or the infamous “Green Bean Museum”…and that’s just the stuff I know about. While those certainly raised a few eyebrows, it’s today’s news that’s really gonna make my colleagues (House/Senate) take a serious look about what our state should be spending money on and how we should be spending it.

If you haven’t kept up at home (and I don’t blame you if you haven’t) here’s a quick recap:

Earlier this year, the House passed “Earmark Reform” and that might have helped us not spend as much as we have in the past.

Not to be left out of the “media spotlight”, the Senate Finance Committee wowed everyone by passing a budget $50,000,000 less than what the House passed (Hey, aren’t Senators up for re-election this year too?)

Then, today the Board of Economic Advisors projects a shortfall of $90,000,000 for next year’s budget. That’s $90 million.

Let’s see how the Senate handles that during the floor debate. It’s one thing to fight over excess money, it’s another to fight when there’s less to go around.

I don’t mean to make light of the situation because this is serious stuff we’re dealing with but it does make me realize that unless we stop the flow of money coming into Columbia, not much will change. If money is there, it will get spent.

My fear this is that when we start making cuts, will we remove some of the local/earmarked projects or will we cut from agencies or other areas (state retirees?) who have already seen cuts this year? Of course, my pick is first with the local/pork projects and then, look at each agency as it relates to a cost/benefit to the state. To be fair to future House/Senate conferees, it’s tough this late in the year to take the time needed to look at this cost/benefit criteria. This late in the game, across-the-board cuts are generally the result.

I’ve consistently supported spending cap legislation in the House. This year, it appears the Senate might be open to the idea. While I don’t approve of the money his Hunley Project receives, I am interested in Senator McConnell’s proposal for a Budget Stabilization Fund. Could this be the tool to help the taxpayers and our state from cyclical stress?

If not that, maybe we should go to a two-year budget cycle like other states use? Doing so may also have the extra benefit of shorter sessions for us in Columbia…which in turn generally saves the taxpayers money and may also encourage more filings for people who want to serve. But that’s a conversation for another day…