Michael Rodgers’ letter to the editor

Since I am no longer paid to do so, I seldom read letters to the editor any more. So I appreciate that our own Michael Rodgers took time to call attention to his letter in The State yesterday, so that I might share it. Here it is:

Modernize our S.C. government

Cindi Scoppe’s Thursday column, “Why Haley won some, lost some budget vetoes,” correctly declares that Gov. Nikki Haley’s request to change budget numbers would upend what a governor is. However, with the way our state government functions, Gov. Haley’s request is actually a clever response. In effect, she is asking for one seat at the table with the six-member legislative conference committee.

This is turnabout as fair play, because the Legislature gets two seats at the five-member executive committee called the Budget and Control Board.

Obviously, having an executive legislate is as wrong as having legislators execute. By separating the powers, we can modernize our state government. The Legislature should set the mission (general tasks) and the scope (total budget not to be exceeded), let the governor and her agency heads execute, and vet the results by having oversight hearings. Thus the Legislature will give the executive branch the flexibility needed to accomplish legislative goals more efficiently.

Michael Rodgers

And here’s my favorite excerpt from the column to which he was responding:

USED WELL, THE line-item veto is a powerful weapon to fight budgetary logrolling. In fact, used well, it can empower legislators as much as it empowers governors.

Although House members can reject individual spending items when the House debates the budget and senators can reject individual items when the Senate debates the budget, the final version of the budget often bears little resemblance to those early plans. It is the work of a conference committee of three representatives and three senators, and it is presented to the House and Senate as a package: Lawmakers can accept the entire thing, or they can reject the entire thing. They can’t amend it.

The governor can amend it by deletion — within reason. She can’t strike words out of provisos to change their meaning, and she can’t change the numbers, as she now says she should be able to do, but which would upend the whole idea of what a veto actually is. And what a governor is.

But she can eliminate entire spending items and provisos, which set forth the rules for some of the spending. And by doing that, she gives legislators the opportunity to consider those items individually, without having to worry that voting against them would result in a government shutdown.

This doesn’t automatically bust up the vote-trading coalitions — you patronize my museum, and I’ll love your parade — and in fact it can strengthen them if a governor goes after too many parochial projects, as then-Gov. Mark Sanford discovered. And rediscovered. And never quite learned. But sometimes it shines enough of a spotlight on ill-considered expenditures to force legislators to back down…

6 thoughts on “Michael Rodgers’ letter to the editor

  1. Juan Caruso

    We certainly have a problem now. We also have more agitated voters than ever, and an upcoming election soon. Changing enough familiar faces in the legislature just might help rectify our problem sooner rather than in the next decade.

  2. Kathryn Fenner

    But, Juan, with the whole ballot mess up, we have the poorest chance of replacing incumbents ever!

  3. Kathy

    After Sanford and Haley, what difference does any of this make?

    Oh, wait, I see two pigs running through the State House. And FaceBook and Twitter are buzzing. But where is the governor? Hiking in Argentina? No, campaigning in Colorado. And that was a good day, a really good day. Oh, all right, it’s a GREAT day in South Carolina.

    See? Now everything is copacetic.

  4. Brad

    Golly, I hardly know where to start, except to say that my position on what you just said is pretty much 180 degrees from yours.

    First, the “presidential model” hasn’t been tried in SC, not even close.

    Next, said presidential model of government has NOT “proven to be a failure at the federal” level. Certainly not in the case of your example. Even if the executive bore equal responsibility for budgets (which, in a strict enumeration of powers, he would not), it seems pretty clear that the dysfunction in that breakdown was almost entirely within the Congress. The speaker of the House could not even deal straight up with the president in negotiations because he was constantly second-guessed by the Speaker of the Tea Party, Eric Cantor.

    And the 1895 constitution only looks acceptable when set aside most of the constitutions that preceded it, which were most assuredly not in the interest of the vast majority of South Carolinians. Our goal should be to free ourselves from the dysfunction that those documents institutionalized, not embrace it.


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