Budget Week 2011

Tomorrow starts “Budget Week” on the floor of the SC House of Representatives. Session starts at 10am, and if the past is any indication, we’ll work into the night during the week and perhaps even straight through the night one of those days.

For those who haven’t seen this year’s budget as prepared by the House Ways and Means Committee, here it is:

Appropriations

Estimate of Revenues

Provisos

It’s difficult to predict how the week will go. Frankly, we don’t have enough money to fund what we’ve been funding the past two years and so that’s where we are. (The main reasons are the end of the Federal “Budget Stabilization Funds” and the rising cost of Medicaid)

If I had to guess, I would think we’ll see the usual partisan debate over where the cuts should be taken; but I’m not sure there will be too much intra-party debate on the Republican side.

As far as amendments, I haven’t called to check on the opening count. I imagine Republicans will have some; but the Democrats usually have the vast majority . My friend, James Smith (D-Richland) has been known to put up his fair share in the past and I imagine he may be “game ready” for a lengthy (but hopefully not dilatory) debate.

Amendments can be put on the desk anytime during the entire week of debate. We’ll often think we’re nearing the end, only to learn several more were recently filed.

Sadly, this a week that can really wear on friendships (especially between parties). It’s also a week every political consultant watches because they can turn any one of these hundreds of votes into a postcard to be plastered throughout an incubment’s district.

You’ll see amendments to move money from one group and give to another . Politically, those votes are “no wins” for any elected official. If you vote to move money from ONE GROUP, the mailer that will probably go out will present it like this: Representative X took your money and gave it away! If you vote against moving that money to the OTHER GROUP, the mailer voters will see will headline: “When given a choice, Representative X said “No” to — fill in the blank with group’s name —!”

Whether your representative is conservative, liberal or moderate…..newly elected or long-term incumbent….reformer or status-quo, I hope you know that they are casting votes based on what they feel is best for our state. That’s what we were sent to do.

While roughly 3,000 to 15,000 members of each community vote for their House member, Representatives should consider the larger picture by keeping in mind the 4,000,000+ people who call South Carolina home.

If you haven’t yet reached out to your Representative on budget issues important to you, now’s the time. We’ll cast our first votes tomorrow and probably wrap up Budget Week Thursday.

As always, you can follow the debate on-line .