Phil Bailey (Senate Democrats, Pub Politics) sent out this release yesterday, and I’m just getting to it:
Legislation to Transform State Budget Process Introduced
Columbia, SC – Lexington State Senator Nikki Setzler has introduced legislation to transform the state budget process and ensure the public knows how all dollars collected from South Carolina taxpayers by state government are spent.
Senator Setzler’s legislation targets so-called ‘other funds’ and treats money from those accounts like other state dollars in the budget. The legislation, introduced by Setzler on Tuesday, takes spending authority for billions of dollars held in special accounts away from a single government official and rightfully places it with lawmakers.
Currently, the state budget is divided into three types of funds: general funds, federal funds and other funds. General funds are tax dollars collected by the state. Federal funds are dollars from Washington that the state does not control. And ‘other funds’ are the dollars that are not general or federal fund dollars, primarily generated from fees charged to those who use the agency’s services.
Over the past 10 years, with lessening state tax revenues, state agencies have grown more reliant on ‘other funds’. For example, one agency in 2000 spent $35 million in general funds and $4.0 million in other funds. By 2009, that agency spent $29 million in general funds and $20 million in other funds.
Until two years ago, the Legislature had little to no oversight over “other funds” in state government. For years, a single government official would grant state agencies authority to spend those funds. The Joint Other Funds Oversight Committee was formed to review these funds and agencies’ request to spend these dollars. Setzler’s legislation would permanently transform the budget process.
Setzler said serving on this committee has been a wake-up call. “The taxpayers of South Carolina were being left in the dark. The budget process was nowhere near as transparent as it should be,” said Setzler.
The legislation introduced by Setzler and co-sponsored by Republicans and Democrats directs all ‘other funds’ to be deposited in the state’s General Fund and appropriated by the General Assembly.
“This makes the budget more transparent and state agencies more accountable to the taxpayers. This is common sense reform and I’m happy to have the bi-partisan support of my colleagues in the Senate,” said Setzler.
Sounds intriguing. I’d like to know more — what sorts of fees we’re talking about, how and why they came into being — before I could make up my mind about it. I’ve asked Phil for some examples.