The Governor’s Spending Plan (Part 2)
IF IT DOESN’T WORK, KEEP DOING IT … ?
Part 2 of our series on the governor’s proposed budget of FY 2013-14 shines a light on the following four department budgets:
- Parks, Recreation, and Tourism
- Department of Agriculture
- Department of Natural Resources
- Department of Transportation
See Part 1 for our coverage of K-12 and Higher Education, as well as the governor’s income tax proposal.
A brief overview shows some interesting and troubling trends within the executive budget. Things like, big taxpayer-funded budget for agency advertising, even more government employees, special road projects, and yes, even Hollywood seem to be the priorities for these agencies.
Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism: Govern
The governor’s budget proposes to allocate over $72.3 million to the Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism (PRT)—an increase of over $2.1 million from last year’s ratified budget. The budget hands out over $11.5 million for advertising—a $1.5 million increase over last year. According to the budget, two-thirds of the increase would be financed through offsetting reductions to comparable programs; however, no specifics as to what programs would be cut are mentioned. Additionally, the governor’s budget proposes a $500,000 increase to market South Carolina’s state parks, and puts Motion Picture Incentives on a dedicated $5 million recurring appropriation line.
With regard to taxing South Carolinians to lure Hollywood producers to come to our state, not only is this an instance of stealing from the poor to give to the rich, but motion picture incentives are already a proven failure as taxpayers lose 81 cents on the dollar when implemented.
Department of Agriculture
The Department of Agriculture enjoys a total budget of just under $14 million in the governor’s budget, an increase of over $850,000 from the previous fiscal year’s ratified budget. In addition to a $150,000 increase for Consumer Services, part of which is used to offset the cost of the pesticide disposal program, a new $892,000 General Fund appropriation for petroleum product inspection was added. The fuel taxes that are currently diverted for this use would be reapplied to transportation infrastructure. While the governor could have just redirected the fuel tax funds while cutting other parts of the budget to pay for this appropriation, this proposal actually created nearly a million new dollars in government spending.
Department of Natural Resources
The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is slated to receive an additional $6.3 million in funding over last year in this budget proposal. Many of the notable increases the Governor requests go beyond what is needed to fund the core services of the department. One notable increase the Governor is proposing includes $377,084 for 10 new Law Enforcement Officers. Leaving aside whether the DNR needs its own law enforcement officers, the budget for Law Enforcement under the DNR is already over $19 million.
Other notable increases include $494,927 for the DNR’s Earth Science Group and $3.4 million for the Water Resource Fund – which, in prior years has been funded by the fuel tax. Now, this $3.4 million will have to be found in the general fund. Last but not least, the Governor requested $2.5 million in non-recurring funding for various projects— the most notable of which is a $2 million state river basin study similar to several river basin studies in last year’s budget funded by proviso 90.2.
Department of Transportation
The Department of Transportation’s (DOT) suggested budget primarily demonstrates the poor management of this agency evident in recent years. A $51.7 million increase is suggested for the subcategory of Construction, but unfortunately the agency has to pay even more than this – $52.7 million – in debt service to pay off bonds our state couldn’t afford in the first place. Similarly the Governor suggests a $4.5 million increase for toll operations, $3.7 million of which is for debt service.
The lesson of not overreaching while still in significant debt does not seem to have been learned yet, as the Governor’s budget also requests $14.2 million in non-recurring funding for a number of special projects including: $10 million for unspecified transportation projects from the capital reserve fund, $1.75 million for a Richland electrical building and $1.4 million for Lexington City complex land. A final notable large expenditure is $52 million for permanent improvements to the port access road, a road which serves Charleston County (this county receives 33% of all funds from the State Transportation Infrastructure Bank according to the Coastal Conservation League. Unfortunately, the Governor’s budget, while allocating funds to help pay down the DOT’s debt, fails to rein in spending on special projects to select counties to the degree needed.