Is McConnell Serious About Slowing Government Growth? November 5, 2007Posted by fitsnews in SC Politics.
SENATE PRESIDENT SAYS SPENDING CAP COULD HAPPEN IN 2008
FITSNews – November 5, 2007 – We’ve often called it a “Led Zeppelin sense of urgency” – as in “now’s the time, the time is now” – and after three years of unsustainable spending growth in South Carolina, that sense of urgency certainly applies to the need for something (anything) to stop the out-of-control spending madness in Columbia.
Of course the reckless government growth we’ve seen in recent years will be slowed at least temporarily due to the fact that South Carolina is facing a half-billion dollar shortfall for the coming fiscal year. But what about a long-term solution? How do we get Palmetto State lawmakers to finally start treating the state budget the same way families and businesses must treat their budgets?
Last month, a proposed remedy came from the pen of a most unlikely source, Senate President Glenn McConnell. In an op-ed published in La Socialista, McConnell announced that he will push for a constitutional amendment limiting government growth in South Carolina to “an amount that would not exceed the rate of population growth plus the growth in personal income.”
“In the face of a bountiful taxpayer buffet, government cannot control its appetite, so its stomach must be stapled,” McConnell wrote in his op-ed. Strong language, indeed, but the Senator has his skeptics among spending cap supporters.
“Don’t be fooled,” one prominent fiscal conservative told FITSNews on the condition of anonymity. “He is the chief protector of the very institution that’s caused this spending mess in the first place. McConnell is the legislative state – always and forever.”
Indeed, McConnell has frequently been accused of backing conservative reforms in the press but perpetuating the status quo behind closed doors, accusations he refuted in an exclusive interview with FITSNews.
“Its time has come,” McConnell said of the spending cap. “The one we’ve got now doesn’t work. It’s clearly not realistic. We need an orderly (budget) framework to prevent a roller-coaster ride.”
McConnell was a member of the minority party in the Senate the last time South Carolina went on a spending binge similar to the one we’re currently experiencing, growing government by 25% over a two-year period in 1998-99. When the national economy cooled and revenue growth stalled, however, the state was forced to raid its trust and reserve funds and cut into core services to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.
As for the timing of his announcement?
“I had to wait untill the climate was right,” McConnell said.
Indeed, polls in several competitive Senate districts across South Carolina all show the same thing – voters are fed up with out-of-control spending.
That’s why the first three months of the 2008 Session of the General Assembly will be a critical time for any number of fiscal conservative reforms, including a spending cap. With a March 30 deadline looming for candidates to file as challengers to Columbia’s incumbent politicians, many in the General Assembly will be looking for opportunities to prove their fiscal conservative bona fides after a three-year orgy at the taxpayers’ expense.
Too little, too late, as far as we’re concerned, but that doesn’t change the fact that the first three months of 2008 present a legitimate window for the passage of some long-overdue fiscally conservative legislation.
While admittedly taking advantage of this dynamic to build support for his proposed cap, McConnell says the constitutional methodology he’s employing is designed to lock in meaningful spending constraints for the long haul.
“We cannot leave it to the political trade winds,” McConnell said of his proposed cap. “If we’re going to have long-term stability and an orderly budgetary process, you need the amendment.”
McConnell says he’s encouraged by the response he’s received from his colleagues.
“I have not picked up any stiff opposition,” he said. “Of course when you get to the time to vote, that’s show-and-tell time.”
Personally, we think the only way to truly hold government growth in check is a revenue cap (which would cut off a percentage of any surpluses before that money wound up in the state’s coffers), although any tightening of fiscal controls in a state that grew government by 19% last year would be welcome.
Stay tuned to FITSNews for ongoing coverage of McConnell’s spending cap proposal as it makes its way through the political and legislative process …