Ask Not, and Ye Shall Receive Anyway

Most state agencies submitted their budget requests back in November. (State law requires them to submit requests, but a few just never get around to it.) When an agency submits a request, it is saying, in effect: This is what we need to fulfill our mission. There is, of course, always the possibility that the agency won’t get all it asks for, but one wouldn’t expect it to get more than it asked for.

This year, however, one would be wrong. Better-than-expected revenue projections mean (at least in the minds of Columbia’s political elite) that there’s more money to go around. So a good number of state agencies have suddenly decided that their previous budget requests understated their needs. By a lot, in some cases.

Below are the top ten examples. (Data comparison is based on FY 20011-12 budget, as ratified.)

 

1. The Department of Insurance

FY 12: $11,472,544

Agency Request: $11,472,544

Senate Finance: $18,438,093

Dollar Increase: $6,965,549

Percent Increase: 60.7

The request submitted by the department does not include the additional $1.6 million the Senate Finance Committee appropriated to them. In addition, the Senate Finance Committee, the House, and the Governor provided the agency with across-the-board increases for personal service and operating expenses. The department will likely enjoy reaping the benefits of the additional funding, despite not having requested it.

 

2. State Ethics Commission

 FY 12: $775,091

Agency Request: $771,904

Senate Finance: $1,074,406

Dollar Increase: $299,315

Percent Increase: 38.6

According to the Senate Finance Committee, the commission is receiving the majority of the additional $300,000 dollars to restore salaries of existing employees. For some reason, however, the agency didn’t ask for it.

 

3. The Budget and Control Board – Auditor’s Office

FY 12: $3,120,278

Agency Request: $4,675,856

Senate Finance: $4,696,535

Dollar Increase: $1,576,257

Percent Increase: 50.5

During the budget process a proviso was inserted that allows the Auditor’s office to retain funds related to audits of state agencies that receive funds subject to federal audit requirements. Essentially, state agencies will pay the Auditor’s office to perform work required to meet federal guidelines. The office did include a request for additional funding to alleviate the need for more timely and consistent audits of state agencies.

 

4. Prosecution Coordination Commission

FY 12: $14,206,168

Agency Request: $19,067,265

Senate Finance: $20,178,747

Dollar Increase: $5,972,579

Percent Increase: 42

The commission requested the additional funding for training and various other programs related to prosecutors and victims advocates. In addition, the increased resources will be used to support the 16 judicial circuits, including salaries and benefits. The commission included justification for the additional costs, citing a backlog of cases and increased overall caseload.

 

5. State Election Commission

FY 12: $2,360,943

Agency Request: $5,965,857

Senate Finance: $5,842,399

Dollar Increase: $3,481,456

Percent Increase: 147.5

The Senate Finance Committee added roughly $3 million dollars to the Commission’s budget for the 2012 election. The commission requested that this funding come from non-recurring revenue since presidential elections only happen every four years. Instead, the committee funded the request solely with general funds. That almost certainly means the Commission will have a lot of funding next year it doesn’t need, which creates the perverse incentive to invent the need.

 

6. The Budget and Control Board – Employee benefits

FY 12: $72,345,000

Agency Request: N/A

Senate Finance: $144,644,045

Dollar Increase: $72,299,045

Percent Increase: 99.9 %

The significant increase in this year’s appropriations include a 3 percent pay raises for state employees. In addition, funds were appropriated to increase the state’s contribution for the cost of the retirement system.

 

7. Retirement System Investment Commission

FY 12: $10,152,679

Agency Request: $18,991,248

Senate Finance: $18,991,248

Dollar Increase: $8,838,569

Percent Increase: 87.1

The Commission requested the additional funds to hire 12 more full time employees. Neither the Executive budget nor the House-passed budget appropriated the funds for this request.

 

8. Legislative Printing and IT Systems

FY 12: $2,992,324

Agency Request: Unknown

Senate Finance: $5,292,324

Dollar Increase: $2,300,000

Percent Increase: 76.9

It’s impossible to know whether this agency wants or needs this funding, given the fact that the office never submitted a budget request to the Governor. In October last year we highlighted numerous state agencies in violation of South Carolina law. According to the Senate Finance Committee’s budget recommendations, the additional funds are for IT upgrades.

 

9. Aid to Subdivisions – The Department of Revenue

FY 12: $72,571,141

Agency Request: N/A

Senate Finance: $108,787,514

Dollar Increase: $36,215,773

Percent Increase: 49.9

Both the House and Senate Finance Committee include additional general funds to pay for Homestead Exemption tax relief. The Homestead Exemption benefits homeowners over the age of 65 and those who are disabled or blind. The program exempts the first $50,000 dollars of the value of your home from property taxes. The Governor, on the other hand, suggests paying for the tax relief through non-recurring funds.

 

10. Commission on Indigent Defense

FY 12: $22,223,798

Agency Request: $22,223,798

SFC: $31,238,550

Dollar Increase: $9,014,752

Percent Increase: 40.6

Both the House and Senate appropriated $6.3 million to the commission to pay for private attorneys representing indigents in order to alleviate the backlog of cases. The budget submitted by the agency, however, asked for about $2.1 million for the same purpose.

 

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