Why S.C. Lawmakers Can’t Pass a Budget on Time


Posted by South Carolina Policy Council on Wednesday, July 8, 2015 ·

EVERY YEAR, LAWMAKERS TRY TO PASS POTENTIALLY CONTROVERSIAL CHANGES THROUGH THE STATE BUDGET. BUT NOT EVERY PROBLEM IS A FUNDING PROBLEM.

Legislators returned to Columbia July 6 for a third week of extended session. The purpose, in part: to vote on the governor’s budget vetoes and thereby finalize the fiscal year (FY) 2016 budget. The fiscal year began, of course, on July 1. The state operated under a continuing resolution for more than a week in July.

Lawmakers have one clear task to accomplish every year: pass a state budget. This year, they proved incapable of fulfilling this duty in the course of the regular session, or even before the last year’s budget expired. What can account for the General Assembly’s sloth-like pace in passing a budget?

One reason is lawmakers’ refusal to follow state law and consider the executive budget in joint open hearings at the beginning of session. Another is lawmakers’ tradition of wasting time on floor introductions and symbolic or otherwise pointless resolutions.

Of equal importance, however, is the transformation of the budget from a bill designed to fund the day to day operations of state government into a vehicle for addressing every policy issue facing South Carolina.

The entire legislative session has become absorbed by the budget process. In other words, lawmakers try to pass measures that won’t otherwise pass by putting them into the state budget. Predictably, that has made it nearly impossible for lawmakers to complete the budget on time.

Read more about the SC Legislature and the budget.

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