Nikki has a budget idea… no, the other Nikki

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.

9 thoughts on “Nikki has a budget idea… no, the other Nikki

  1. Silence

    So basically if this proposal were to pass, I could go to use a state park, and the money I pay to support the state park would then go into the legislature’s slush fund and end up supporting the poison ivy festival in Leesburg or the poke salad museum in Lone Star. Sheesh.

  2. Juan Caruso

    “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.”

    What happened to government transparency here? Why is the particular agency not being identified to the public? Brevity is not the best answer.

  3. Doug Ross

    Please tell me you were not surprised to hear about this. The size of South Carolina’s state government has grown consistently over the past decade precisely for this reason. Spending has increased significantly by pretending that taxes have remained low.

    Instead of turning the cash over to the corrupt legislators or leaving it in the hands of corrupt government bureaucrats, the best solution would be to cut spending across the board.

  4. Tim

    No agency will ever write another grant. A)Why would they bother, and B)the would get sued by the grantor for misallocation.

  5. Steven Davis

    What’s Setzer’s stand on those departments that want to keep parts of their budget secret from the public?

  6. Mark Stewart

    Despite Doug’s desire to slash and burn, this is more illustrative of the old saw “be careful what you wish for”. The legislature has consistantly cut funding levels to all agencies; many of these have real responsibilities and, therefore, real monetary demands.

    Does anyone not think that when an agency is significantly and repeatedly underfunded that the entity would not tend to direct any fees that it can obtain through it’s own resources to it’s core area of responsibility first and foremost?

    Setzler has a point; but it actually is most reflective upon the legislature itself – these are the people who control the purse-strings of government???

  7. Tim

    What we are moving toward is creation of quasi-government agencies, which will have less accountability to the Governor and the GA. USC is already only 10% an agency. Looks like Parks is moving to be completely off-general funds. Other agencies, such as Transportation and the Adjutant General are more Federal agencies that State Agencies. I think this issue that Setzler is recognizing is that the General Assembly is rapidly losing its budgetary clout. Giving a stern wag of your finger at USC or Clemson anymore is resulting in a French Salute by those administrations.

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