Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Garrick identifies hypocrisies in South Carolina's budget proposal

Lodging charges of hypocrisy in South Carolina's budget is almost too easy -- like shooting fish in a barrel -- but I have to promote the interesting perspective of freshman Rep. Mia Butler Garrick, whose reflection on the recent two-day House budget debate is insightful. You can read the whole essay here but she names four obstacles to South Carolina's progress: the "good ol' boy system," the waste of time, the "lack of political courage" and lawmakers' "rhetoric."

Garrick offers suggestions to ameliorate our collective condition:

We could start by repealing Act 388, at least considering the Taxation Realignment Commission’s recommendations or rethinking last year’s unemployment insurance increase.

And if we’re serious about shrinking government, let’s not create new positions such as inspector general or a new agency such as the Department of Administration while maintaining the Budget and Control Board. Consolidating agencies is a great idea, but only if it saves money, eliminates duplication and streamlines services.

I support government restructuring because I believe South Carolina needs true government reform. I’m just not convinced that our efforts in the budget the House just passed truly accomplish that.

She critiques the budget debate as "unbelievably short" and uncorks on the bill's inherent hypocrisies:

I voted against it because our priorities are misaligned. There are a few positives, such as an increase in base student funding for education, $25 million for public charter schools and $10 million for the Department of Commerce’s deal-closing fund to help recruit new businesses to South Carolina.

But there are numerous hypocrisies: Creating a new government agency and new positions while saying we’re not growing government. Funding large salary increases in the governor’s office while cutting essential programs and services. Reducing access to quality, affordable health care while turning federal money away that could expand access and save jobs.

During our budget debate, the majority rejected a federal 3-to-1 return on state tax dollars that could bring millions to the state and save jobs that we desperately need right now. Meanwhile, hard-working South Carolinians are losing their jobs, their homes, their health care, their quality of life — making it difficult even to survive the current economic conditions, let alone thrive.

And while the establishment successfully incited fear across South Carolina in anticipation of more devastating cuts this year, the reality is that we have again balanced the state’s budget on the backs of hard-working middle-class South Carolinians who can least afford it.

As a student of our state's tortured history, I regretfully submit that the only way to change our malignant system is through a constitutional convention. History demonstrates that only those overhauls to our foundation document have yielded significant change in the past. But I am immeasurably loathe to support that option, because I suspect the physicians at hand would render a cure deadlier than the illness.

No, South Carolina's salvation lay another two or three generations ahead.

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