We finally have the end in sight for the 2011 Legislative Session. We put our final touches on the state budget and also finalized the proposed House and Senate redistricting maps. In the process Governor Haley sent the budget back with her 34 line item vetoes, in which both the House and Senate addressed. It has been a very successful session for House Republicans. House Republicans rolled up their sleeves this year drafting a balanced, conservative spending plan focused on restraining government growth, funding core functions of government, responsibly paying down debt and increasing our rainy day reserve accounts. We completed a solid agenda of conservative legislative reforms – from lawsuit abuse reform to Voter ID.
The only thing we have left to do is go back one more time to approve the conference committee on the proposed congressional redistricting maps. Keep in mind, South Carolina gets to add an additional Congressional seat, this why there has been so much debate. Read about the budget and more in this legislative update…
I hope that you find this weeks update helpful and informative:
Governor Haley to Visit North Augusta:
This coming Tuesday the 19th of July, Governor Nikki Haley will come to the park at Hammonds Ferry for a bill signing ceremony. She is signing a bill that I authored this past Legislative Session. I am very happy and honored to welcome our Governor to North Augusta. The Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact was co-sponsored by over 30 colleagues on both sides of the isle. The bill calls for South Carolina to join the Interstate Wildlife Compact, which is like a drivers license compact. In the event you travel to another state and have a game or fishing violation, you will be treated as if you were in your home state; accept the citation from the officer and continue on your way. In the past, SC-DNR made a non-resident violator post bail on the spot or go to jail. This bill saves time and money for the game wardens. There is no cost for SC to join the Compact.
Below is a list of details about the Compact:
Final Budget Debate:
One of the most important things legislators do each year is write the State budget. Deciding how much to fund State agencies, or return, your hard-earned tax dollars is a task that the House Republicans take very seriously. No budget is ever perfect, but we strive to ensure we prioritize spending and fund core government functions like highways, education, and public safety.
As the budget debate matures each year, third-party groups spend much time and energy attacking the budget by pulling out small programs or non-spending items as an indictment on the entire $6 billion state General Fund budget. I'll say it again: No budget is perfect. But taking small items out of context and not looking at the whole is not fair and in no way "proves" a budget is not fiscally responsible.
The total budget approved Wednesday totals $21.9 billion. Of that total, only the $6 billion General Fund is directed by the General Assembly. Of the rest, approximately $8 billion is Federal money flowing straight to Medicaid, schools, and local governments. Another $8 billion is "other money" – primarily money parents pay in college tuition directly to universities and gasoline tax money that is sent directly to the Department of Transportation for road maintenance and construction.
Highlights of fiscal discipline in this budget include an unprecedented amount of money that was not spent and instead set aside for items like debt repayment and rainy day reserve accounts. This includes $146 million to unemployment debt repayment, up to $261 million which fully funds increases to the General Reserve Fund five years ahead of schedule, $104.8 million dedicated to an additional back-up reserve account, and $198.6 million to fully fund general obligation bond payments, $196.4 million to be returned to communities to aid local government.
Instead of spending this year's recently announced revenue surplus on legislative wish lists, lawmakers directed money to debt repayment, education and funded increases to the General Reserve Fund five years ahead of schedule. It's also important to note that this revenue surplus was the result of increased private sector economic activity and not from any kind of tax increase.
"By keeping taxes low, getting government bureaucracy out of the way and cutting government spending to balance our budget, we have created a competitive and fair business climate that is allowing our state's economy to grow out of this national recession," Speaker Harrell said.
Haley Vetoes 34 Items:
Governor Haley held a press conference on Tuesday, June 28th. proclaiming there is "no pork included in this year's budget." We appreciate Governor Haley making note of the fiscal restraint used by lawmakers during this budget process and her focus on capping state spending – an issue that House Republicans have championed, passing spending limitations bills 6 times, including passing the Spending Limitations Bill (H. 3368) just this past March.
This budget DID come in well below proposed growth caps – in fact it was tens of millions of dollars below growth caps.
Let me be clear – the State Budget falls under this spending cap because Conservative lawmakers acted responsibly, setting aside and not spending unprecedented appropriations for items such as debt repayment, and increasing rainy day reserve accounts:
Whether it's a household budget, a business budget or the State Budget, Conservatives believe in responsibly paying down debt and building financial security through savings.
Key Vetoed Items – Overridden by General Assembly…
Reserve Account: We overrode the veto of the $107 million reserve account that includes areas of economic development, tourism advertising, job training and maintenance. There are critically needed funds in this account, particularly for economic development in Aiken County and throughout the state. There's ample proof that vetoing the reserve account would have been incredibly damaging. If the Governor had given us vetoes on specific line items, a more thorough consideration could have been accomplished. Issuing a veto of the entire reserve account, required the General Assembly to quickly over-turn the veto.
ETV: Earlier in the budget process the Governor agreed to a plan to pay ETV for services rendered to the state for its services to our public schools, law enforcement training and emergency services. At the last moment the Governor Haley vetoed more than 60% of ETV's budget. House Majority Leader Kenny Bingham stated, "The governor's office had asked us to do this very thing and now turned around and vetoed it." Taxpayers are supporting ETV's involvement in educating students, law enforcement training, emergency services, and making the General Assembly sessions transparent for all to observe; valuable services to the state that we would have to cut or buy elsewhere at likely a much higher cost. Tax money is not paying for ETV's programming.
K-12 Funding: In our veto override, we appropriated $56 million in non-recurring dollars for K-12 education. That translates to about $2 million for the Aiken County School District. The General Assembly is also providing supplemental funds to certain districts due to inequities in the current funding formula. The Aiken School District receives $1.6 million from this allocation. It is good to note, that this money will likely not be provided in the future after the K-12 funding formula is changed. Together, the above is $3.6 million more for Aiken County Schools this year. In addition, the General Assembly appropriated additional recurring dollars for the new fiscal year increasing per child funding $171 for the Aiken County School District.
The Arts: Both the House and Senate overrode Governor Haley's $1.9 million veto of the state Arts Commission. The vote was 105-8 in the House. This is an economic development issue — it means jobs and a cultural environment that invites companies to locate to S.C. A new USC Moore School study shows the arts contribute $9.2 billion to the state's economy and supports more than 78,000 jobs. The arts also produce $570 million in tax revenues for SC. Had we defunded the Arts Commission, South Carolina would join Kansas as the only other state without an Arts Commission.
Elections: Believing elections are a core government function, the House and Senate voted to allow the State Election Commission to operate and help pay for the 2012 Republican presidential primary. Democrats, whose party does not plan a primary next year, asked Republicans to turn the budget rule into permanent law so that it applies to future presidential primaries, no matter the party. The State Election Commission has about $680,000 on hand. Total cost of the Primary is expected to be $1.5 million.
Key Vetoed Items – Sustained: The General Assembly sustained 9 of Governor Haley's 34 vetoes. Among the vetoes left in place:
$118,297 to pay for a nonprofit program to teach entrepreneurship,
$179,856 to help eighth-graders prepare for college
$169,487 to improve SAT college entrance-exam scores.
South Carolina Ranks DEAD last:
In this case though, it is good to come in last! Data released recently by the conservative Tax Foundation showed South Carolina's per capita tax burden is $1,577 (based on data from the Foundation and the U.S. Census Bureau). That ranks us dead last – No. 50 – among U.S. States. This is a ranking where being last is a strong badge of honor. It also vindicates the 15 years of budgets written by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. We are keeping your tax burden low and letting you keep more of your money. It is your money after all – not the government's.
Smaller State Government:
This year's budget also permanently eliminated nearly 4,700 state government positions that were vacant or had not been filled within the 12 months. Since voters gave the House Republicans control of the state House in 1994, the GOP has slashed the size of government by nearly 22 percent – as measured by the number of state employees. That's a smaller government.
Letter Delivered to Aiken County School Board:
At a recent School board meeting a letter was read during the meeting from the Aiken County House Delegation. Roland Smith, Bill Hixon, Bill Taylor, Tom Young and Kit Spires signed the letter that requested that the ACSB not increase the millage rate during such difficult economic times. Read The Letter Here
I have received several emails in the past week from concerned citizens about a new law inspired by little Caylee down in Florida. Most of these emails were generated from the petition website (change.org). The petition basically states that a new law should be created called Caylee's Law that will make it a felony for a parent or guardian to not notify law enforcement of a child going missing within 24 hours. I am currently doing research on what is currently on the books in South Carolina. When the House returns for the 2012 session, I will be ready to address this.
Please be sure to stay up to date with all that is going on in Columbia. If you have any questions, comments or concerns, I am always available.
Please keep in mind that you can View Live Broadcasts of the South Carolina House of Representatives daily legislative sessions by clicking Here.
As always you can go to my FACEBOOK page and hit the like button.
You can also go to the new House Roll Call Votes Page to see how all the representatives have voted on the important bills.
Thank you for the privilege of serving you in Columbia. If I can ever be of assistance to you, or if you have ideas on issues you want me to share with the rest of the General Assembly, please don't hesitate to contact me at Home at 803-278-0892 or at work 803-279-8855.
Representative Bill Hixon – SC House of Representative – District 83