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Treasurer Fight Showcases S.C. Executive-Legislative War August 1, 2007

Posted by fitsnews in SC Politics.

Sanford In a Box


FITSNews – August 1, 2007 – As much as we give Gov. Mark Sanford a hard time here on FITSNews, one area where he’s always been right on the mark (philosophically anyway) has been his quest to reform South Carolina’s ridiculously outdated and inefficient government structure. The fact that a Chief Executive has to defer to the Legislature at all in appointing executive branch positions is a joke, let alone the situation in which we currently find ourselves where an elected treasurer has resigned and the legislative branch has already decided on an eminently unworthy successor from its own ranks.

Simply put, South Carolina’s executive branch is as splintered, dysfunctional and ineffective as any in the nation – a holdover from our state’s overtly racist, post-Reconstruction Constitution. This antiquated 1895 document (which is still in effect, by the way) was all about limiting the power of the Governor’s Office in the event a black person was ever elected to fill it. Basically, it’s the “Jim Crow Constitution,” and the fact that we still operate our state on such a backwards premise is not only embarassing but ensures a costly clusterf*ck in the one branch of government that ought to be efficiently and responsively meeting the evolving needs of a 21st Century world.

Against this historic backdrop, Sanford took the symbolic step yesterday of naming Charleston City Councilman Tim Scott – an African-American – as his choice to become the next State Treasurer. Unfortunately, Scott has about as much chance of actually becoming Treasurer as you or I have of getting bitten by a shark in Montana, and the only debate his “sacrificial lamb” candidacy is likely to engender will be the extent of its impact on South Carolina’s ongoing legislative-executive fued.

Scott is a great candidate, to be sure, and we have no doubt he would make the best Treasurer out of all the names under consideration. He’s not an ethically-tainted bromide like Treasurer-to-be Converse Chellis, nor is he a pompous Yankee assh*le like State Sen. Greg Ryberg – whose intense desire to be Treasurer is starting to remind us of one of those bad romance novels with Fabio on the cover.

Instead, Scott’s quest will be viewed largely through the prism of political brinksmanship, with black legislators who had already settled on Chellis’ candidacy insisting that the governor was deliberately trying to embarrass them, along with white legislators from Scott’s hometown of Charleston, too, for that matter.

It could also easily turn into a “process story” about how Sanford waited until the 11th hour to make his intentions known, long after the votes had already been counted in Chellis’ favor.

Hanging in the balance of this vote, of course, is power over the State Budget and Control Board, that quasi-legislative, quasi-executive “five-headed monster” that had briefly come under fiscal conservative control.

Liberal spenders on the board like State Sen. Hugh Leatherman and House Ways & Means Chairman Dan Cooper will get a staunch big government ally in Chellis, meaning that Sanford’s recently-announced cost-saving reforms to the agency are now dead on arrival.

Furthermore, the trio has already made it clear that they plan on firing all of the fiscal conservatives that the governor has appointed to the board’s executive staff since January.

The net result of all this, of course, is a stunning reversal for the taxpayers on one of the most powerful entities in all of state government.

For the record, we’d like to reiterate our view that the Budget and Control Board shouldn’t even exist.

For the legislature to meddle so dramatically in what are clearly executive branch functions (no matter what you think of the current executive) is an affront to the whole notion of checks and balances on which our American system of democracy is based. It’s wasteful, inefficient and completely lacking in accountability, which is probably why no other state operates such a bastardized agency for the purpose of administering the executive responsibilities of government.

Regrettably, however, meddling toward inefficent ends is what our Legislature does best, and failing miserably to stop them is what our current governor does best.



1. schotline - August 1, 2007
2. Reefer - August 1, 2007

Dude – that’s a lot of words. Why can’t we all just get along?

3. Laurin Manning - August 1, 2007

There’s a debate as to whether the Budget & Control Board is, by design, a constitutional entity. There’s a strong argument to be made that it’s a violation of separation of powers. The South Carolina Supreme Court addressed this question in the case McLeod v. Edwards and found that the B & C Board’s design didn’t violate the doctrine of separation of powers, but (if I remember correctly) one of the biggest factors in the Court’s deeming it constitutional was that the majority of the Board is popularly elected statewide. Now that the legislature is responsible for choosing Ravenel’s replacement, the majority of the membership of the B & C Board will no longer have been popularly elected statewide. Rather, the majority will be comprised of members of the legislature and an individual of the legislature’s choosing.

I’m wondering if there will be a constitutional challenge and who would mount such a challenge.

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