More on Sanford veto

Here’s some stuff I didn’t have room for in my Sunday column.

The bottom line is that even the things the governor says that sound reasonable don’t hold up when you run the numbers:

In his veto letter (on page 3), the governor says the following:

I have heard the arguments from some state legislators that "growing government by 13 percent this year simply puts us back to where we were before we had to make those midyear budget  cuts." That is simply not true.The Budget is $744 million above the previous budget high-water mark that people talk of "getting back to," as is shown by the following chart.

He’s right that it is not true. And indeed, in raw, unadjusted dollars there is a $744 million increase over the highest previous year. But the real reason the statement is not true is that there is no real-world increase at all, and the latest budget falls far short of "getting back to" what we were funding before. In fact, it is actually a $247 million cut when adjusted for inflation.

In 2006, you have to come up with $6.623 billion to have the buying power of the $5.632 billion "high-water" budget passed in 2000. That’s according to the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator.

The budget that the governor just vetoed is $6.376 billion. It falls short by $247 million from getting back to where we were before the cuts.

The governor also writes (on page 2) that:

I have consistently advocated limiting the growth in state government spending to a rate that reasonably correlated with the people’s ability to sustain it over time. Some would argue  that this rate is population plus inflation, currently about 5.5 percent. Others say it should be the  state’s average personal income growth, now about 6 percent.

When adjusted using the same official inflation calculator, the state budget grew by 6.41 percent from the one passed last year — not by 13 percent or even 10 percent.

So lawmakers who argue with the governor — if they have a clue as to what’s really going on — would not say, "growing government by 13 percent this year simply puts us back …." First, because it’s not growing by that rate. Second, because it doesn’t put us back at all. If they said either of those things, they’d be just as wrong as the governor is.

33 thoughts on “More on Sanford veto

  1. LexWolf

    Which “official inflation calculator” at your link are you referring to? There are several available.
    What was the state budget in 2005? From this link it would appear to be $5.617 billion. The 2006 budget is $6.376 billion. I’m not a bigtime editorial writer but that looks suspiciously like a 13.5% increase to me. Population plus inflation at 5.5% would only justify $5.926 billion. In other words the budget grew by 8% above and beyond the increase in population+inflation.
    Wouldn’t it be great if the citizens could increase spending by 13.5% year over year? Can you?

  2. mark

    The cognitive dissonance is almost overwhelming:
    A governor who misleads anyone who will isten to push his libertarian philosophy;
    Legislators who can’t do simple math, and don’t understand why they do the things they do;
    And The State newspaper, which endorses Sanford for reelection, then one week later goes to great lengths to point out what a goofball he truly is.
    No wonder voters don’t go to the polls. How can anyone make sense of all this?

  3. Tim

    “And The State newspaper, which endorses Sanford for reelection, then one week later goes to great lengths to point out what a goofball he truly is.”
    Brad, while I’m truly glad to see that you and the editorial board have finally seen the light, this disgust with the governor brings me back to a question I asked a couple of weeks ago: if the pickin’s are so slim, why feel compelled to make an endorsement at all?
    You may answer that since voters are forced to make a choice, you feel it’s your obligation to do so as well. But voters do have a choice: write in someone, refuse to cast a vote in that particular race or not show up at the polls at all.
    I did the second myself when I was forced to vote in the Republican primary last week in order to have any voice at all in choosing my county councilman. I simply did not cast a vote for Lite Guv or Secretary of State. Wouldn’t no endorsement send a louder message in these cases? Or what about the unusual prospect of urging voters to cast their ballots for someone more deserving of the office who might not be running?

  4. Lee

    Who says that the $5.632 billion “high-water” budget passed in 2000 is the baseline?
    If we lived without the “cuts” for 5 years, these were obviously not critical items.
    LexWolfe is exactly right. The budget increased 13.5% from 2005 to 2006.
    Most importantly, the median family incomes for a 4-person family in South Carolina only increased $139.00 from 2000 to 2006, from $56,294 to $56,433. (US Census Bureau).

  5. Doug

    Whatever “cuts” happened in 2000 were made up by the local counties raising property taxes at an even higher rate as unfettered sprawl led to large bond referendums.
    I once wrote that I would vote for any presidential or senate candidate who supports a flat tax. Let me add to that by saying I will vote for any local candidate who will support implementation of real impact fees on new development.
    Our property tax system is as broken as the federal income tax system. You are charged a variable fee for your home not based on the services you receive nor on your ability to pay, but on what the property is worth IF YOU WERE TO SELL IT. I pay more property taxes than either of my neighbors simply because I have one more bedroom in my house than they do. We all get the same fire, police, schools, libraries, recreation, etc. How does that make any sense? Why is it that we can be charged a flat rate for garbage collection yet the same cannot be done for all the other services?
    I want to see a tax system based on two things: income and consumption. No loopholes. Only non-taxed items would
    be food and medicine.

  6. LexWolf

    To make it even worse, the state budget is only a small fraction of the money actually spent by the state. Once you add in federal funding, earmarked funding, and restricted funding, the state budget amounts to only 31% of the $18.033 billion total ((link here).
    Considering that there are only about 4.3 million residents of this state the state budget by itself comes to $1,482.79 for every man, woman and child in the state. Add in the other funding and we’re talking about a humongous $4,193.72 per person spent by the state. That’s $16,774.88 for a family of four. That’s more than many families here earn. It would take 61 hours per week of minimum wage labor to earn that stupendous amount.
    And Brad claims that’s still not enough? The state needs even more money? Sorry, I’m not convinced.

  7. Doug

    Zero based budgeting combined with giving the governor more stringent veto power over “pork” would go a long way… Make every legislator stand up and vote for spending $5 million on a planetarium at the State Museum versus spending the same on basic science classes for elementary school children. Or how about a roll call vote on spending $700K on the Upstate Children’s museum or $250 on Spoleto MARKETING???
    I find The State’s hand wringing over education spending quite hypocritical when it will not address the wasteful spending that should be spent on ESSENTIAL services.

  8. Tim

    A roll call can be requested on each and every vote either body takes, and believe me, the uncumbent governor has enough allies to get one. But you know what, it won’t matter if you take a roll call on everyone – the voters aren’t engaged enough to care.

  9. Nathan

    I have a crazy idea with this whole budget delimma. Why don’t we commission a study to determine what the state of SC really needs to do, and how much that will cost. Remove paying for town carnivals, pedestrian bridges, and other “charitable donations” from the budget and just see what it costs. Then, make that our budget. Wow, what a crazy idea! You know, when I determine my budget at home, I don’t pull out the bellsouth bills from last year and add 13%, I just figure out what they are charging me and put it down. Why can’t we just do that?

  10. mark g

    South Carolina ranks 42nd in total tax burden. Not bad, for a state with such a small economy. Property taxes were 36th before current legislation—I’m not sure where it will fall to now, but lower. Our cigarette and gas excise taxes are the lowest in the nation. You’d think people would be happy about the low taxes we already enjoy. Anyone?
    Studies by the Thurman Institute have shown that the greatest tax burden in this state goes to those families earning between $22k and $35k. The tax burden is lowest among the top 5 percent of income distribution. So the rich folks are dodging a bullet in SC. Does that make any of the rabid Republicans on here happy yet? No?
    We have a conservative Republican government in place in SC– according to the Office of Economic Research, administrative costs in SC state government are nearly 25% lower than the national average. So once again, not too bad. Anyone happy yet? No?
    But SC’s roads are among the worst in the country, thus one of the highest fatality rates. The state’s rural schools are vastly under funded. We have too few patrolmen on the roads, prisons are under staffed, etc.
    No state budget is perfect, but SC is deteriorating before our eyes…yet so many are blinded by a governor who makes false claims about government spending and taxes. How will this state ever move forward?

  11. Lee

    That’s why a Constitution which strictly prohibits spending on most things, and only permits it on a few, and with low ceilings, is the only means of securing liberty. At least then, one person can sue for justice.

  12. Nathan

    Tim, you are exactly right. Most voters will vote based on sound bites they hear on campaign commercials. It has been said that people will get the government that they deserve, and I guess that is what we have.

  13. LexWolf

    Jeremy, I agree that Brad should clarify exactly which amounts he was talking about. The $6.108B figure may be correct but Brad said $6.376B in the original post and that’s the number I used for the year-to-year comparison. I assumed he knew what he was talking about and didn’t even check the 2006/2007 link you provided.
    Explain yourself, Brad. Which numbers are we talking about?

  14. Doug

    A hundred million here, a hundred million there… what’s a hundred million of other
    people’s money really?
    Pretty sad when people think a couple percentage points difference on $6 billion dollars is no big deal.

  15. Lee

    It is especially sad that the legislators don’t care if government grows at 2 or 3 times the rate of taxpayer’s gross incomes.
    Combined tax burdens are so high now that just a small increase is enough to stall all economic growth, as Clinton did twice. It only took a partial rollback of the Clinton tax increases to spark the 2001 recovery.

  16. Cindi

    I’m interjecting only because Brad’s not following this string closely, and there seems to be some confusion/debate over how he calculated his numbers (or rather, how I caluclated them for him). I would refer you to my column from last week that tried to explain all the different ways to calculate the spending increases. It’s at

  17. Doug

    Cindi’s column is wrong right from the start. The analogy presents three choices related to “income” when most of the rest of us recognize that the state budget is related to “spending”.
    A better analogy would be:
    Susie made 22,000 last year and spent 23,000 including $500 for a toy submarine for her son Glenn and $300 for a telescope for her rich nephew whose parents should have paid for it.
    Next year, Susie thinks she will make 23,000 because she plans to ask her boss for a raise and she’s been buying more lottery tickets. Knowing that the extra money is “guaranteed” she has already plans to spend $24,000 because she knows she can always ask her Dad (Mr. Harrell) for a loan or else use her Visa card with the unlimited credit line and low, low, monthly payments to cover the difference. Her spending plan doesn’t cover the hole in the roof of her doublewide nor will she be able to purchase the Hooked On Phonics package her twelve year old son needs this year (but she will make sure to test how badly he is reading at the end of the year).
    But she will be able to take that vacation down to Spoleto that she always wanted. And pay her best friend double the going rate to cater her tailgating party at USC.
    If her financial advisor, Mr. Sanford, says
    “Maybe you should cut back a little bit”,
    Susie will stamp her feet and hold her breath until her Sugar Daddy makes everything all better.

  18. kc

    Lee, you seem to enjoy obtaining information from the Internet and using it to communicate with other people.
    Did you know that the Internet wouldn’t exist if not for federal government funding and research? And to think the U.S. Constitution doesn’t even MENTION the Internet!
    Maybe you should boycott the Internet.

  19. LexWolf

    Yet another woefully biased column. I guess we are supposed to be happy that the budget increased by “only” 8.7% or 9.7% or 9.9% or 9.1% or 10.8% instead of the 13% claimed by the governor. Somehow that doesn’t make me feel any better. All of those increases are far in excess of what’s necessary or responsible. After all, population plus inflation is only 5.5% and personal income grew by only 6% so why does the state need to spend between 45% and 84% more than P+I or personal income? Did you get a 45% to 84% raise this year, Cindi? Have you ever gotten such a huge raise? Did you even get a 9% or 10% raise?

  20. Lee

    I have been using the Internet for medical and military R&D since 1983. It was funded by DARPA, but the technology was mostly developed by individuals in academia and the private sector, to fulfill their real needs to share data. The original working Internet was a link between Duke, UNC Chapel Hill and NC State. The inventor of HTML just passed away recently. I was using HTML to keep notes on my IBM XT back in 1986.
    Nice diversion, but no excuse for the STATE government wasting money faster than the income growth of the taxpayers.

  21. Tim

    OK, the whole budget is online. I don’t have time to find the link right now, but you smart people can find it easily enough at
    Before I get back from taking my kid to the doctor, I want Lee and the Wolf to go through that sucker and tell us – specifically – what $764 million or so they would eliminate. Entirely. Don’t pussyfoot around, boys. Be brutal. Close down some schools, prisons, state parks, whatever it takes. Just come back here and give us the details.
    I’ll be back around 3…have fun.

  22. LexWolf

    thank you for providing us with yet another strawman. While I could undoubtedly find enough fat to cut $764 million, and probably much more, I don’t quite see exactly why you want us to eliminate it. Entirely. After all, there has been some inflation and population growth in the past 5 years and government being the government it’s too much to expect an actual spending reduction in good times like this.
    What is it with you liberals that it’s always an all-or-nothing, black-and-white thing for you? I thought you were supposed to be the oh-so-smart, nuanced crowd! So get on the stick already and start being nuanced, as advertised.
    In any case, there’s no need to find all kinds of things to eliminate. Entirely. The governor has already provided us with a budget that addresses all legitimate needs and still stays within the 5.5% population plus inflation increase. That’ll do. Entirely!

  23. Doug

    Tim’s challenge is meaningless. I just did a quick scan of the final budget (post veto override). The level of detail isn’t anywhere close to where someone could even ask meaningful questions.
    Here’s some easy ones, though.
    Arts Commission: 5.1 million (100% cut)
    State Museum: 6 million (100% cut)
    Dept Of Ed
    Div of Curriculum : 10 million (50%)
    Character Education $250K (100%)
    Gifted and Talented Programs: $35 million
    (should be funded locally)
    Adult Education: $12 million
    Governors Institute of Reading – $24
    million for MATERIALS????
    Palmetto Gold and Silver Awards – $3 million
    4 Yr Old Early child – $21 million (glorified babysitting)
    Clemson Ag Education of Teachers – $400K
    I’d keep going but it gets more depressing as I dig deeper into just how much money is spent on things the government shouldn’t be doing.

  24. Tim

    What strawman? I’m asking you to come out from behind your strawman, stop talking philosophically and in generalities and tell us exactly where the $764 million of fat is in this budget – and remember, it’s your hero who picked that figure. Don’t like it? That’s cool, find me $500 million? Still too high? OK, $300 million. Or do the freakin’ math between 13 percent and 5.5 percent and choose whatever dollar figure that is. I don’t care, just show me a budget that meets your population + inflation figure and tell me what gets cut out of the one just passed. If you can’t do it, let’s just all assume you’re as full of crap as your governor is.

  25. LexWolf

    try to read for comprehension next time. Check out Sanford’s original budget and you will find a budget that meets all reasonable needs and stays within the P+I increase. No need to cut anything completely. Entirely. Knowing that he undoubtedly spent much time and effort putting it all together, I stand behind Sanford on this. If you absolutely must have something you can label as “cuts” even though the budget increased by 10% or so (thus by definition there can be no talk of “cuts”), just identify all the differences between Sanford’s budget and the one just passed over his veto. You know where to find the budget so I’m sure you can figure out the “cuts” yourself.

  26. Lee

    Economic growth rates for SC 2001-2006, including population growth, legal and illegal.
    2001-02 = 1.5%
    2002-03 = 3.1%
    2003-04 = 0.6%
    2004-05 = 3.5%
    2005-06 = 4.1%
    (Source: BEA and The State of June 7, 2006)
    Why should government grow any faster than the economy? In fact, it cannot do so for very long without ending economic growth.

  27. Brad Warthen

    Just now reading Lexwolf’s question — where does this 6.108B figure come from? I searched both these posts and didn’t find it.
    I’m sort of sleepy at the moment (just woke up in the wee hours and thought I’d check the blog) and might just not be looking in the right place. I’ll try to answer the question if you’ll help me understand it.

  28. LexWolf

    the $6.108B comes from the 2006-2007 recapitulation cited by Jeremy | Jun 19, 2006 3:39:25 PM.
    Still would appreciate your answer on which numbers we should be talking about.

  29. Lee

    Local Governments Also Spending Too Much
    As mentioned by others, Scoppe, Harrell, Land, Leatherma and other whiners about “budget cuts” never mention the local tax increases which offset any slowing of state spending.
    On top of the grotesque spending increase of the state legislature, we have Richland County increasing its spending by 11%.
    Since government is growing faster than the county economy or population, tax increases are required to feed the bloat.

Comments are closed.