Background: The SC Board of Economic Advisors was scheduled to meet this week to announce the new revenue surplus numbers (new tax money coming from economic growth.) The meeting was postponed. A question was raised by several of us as to the intent of the postponement. Was the meeting inadvertently delayed or was it purposefully delayed so that the surplus would be announced after the House had finished debating the Senate amendments to the budget?
In past years, the result would be the same. The surplus would be allocated in the budget as decided by the three House members and three Senators on the budget conference committee. Normally in past years the surplus number was always a closely held secret until the last-minute. True, we were given the final plan to vote on but only after the fix was in. This somewhat resembles insider trading, but in this case information buys power.
Why This Matters: The surplus could approach $200 million for the fiscal year ending this quarter and another $200 million next quarter at the start of the new fiscal year.
The Obvious Solution: Instead of spreading the new money around to benefit the dozens of lobbyists who hang around Columbia, just split the surplus between DOT and the county transportation committees. Direct that the funds are to be used to address serious safety projects first then road and bridge repair. Let our citizens see repairs being made.
Why a Supplemental Appropriations Bill: Because some of us figured out what would happen to the surplus and asked why. We knew that the Senate amended the budget so that any new revenue surpluses should go to road repair. The Senate amendments have been returned to the House for us to debate containing an immediate solution to stop our road decline. How does our budget committee respond? By announcing a supplemental appropriations bill which would require that the Senate surplus amendment be removed from the current budget. This would create a lobbyist feeding frenzy around the surplus. The supplemental appropriations bill is pure piffle designed to distract and delay.
Remember the Basics: Maintaining roads is a core function of government. The General Assembly has allowed our road system to decline over the years while shamelessly spending surplus revenue on countless superficial projects. This surplus belongs to the taxpayers, not the lobbyists. We need to spend it on the roads in a transparent, efficient and verifiable manner.
The Long Term Benefit: This surplus allows the Legislature time to improve the several road funding plans that exist so that we actually come up with a viable long-term solution to restructure DOT and address our broken tax system.