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Is McConnell Serious About Slowing Government Growth? November 5, 2007

Posted by fitsnews in SC Politics.



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 …



1. The "Irrelevant" Sanford? - November 5, 2007

And why is the time now right for a spending cap? I don’t think that’s even open for debate. Thank you, Gov. Sanford, for not being one of the sheep.

2. Daniel - November 5, 2007

I feel the same way about Glenn McConnell championing a conservative government restructuring idea as I do about the Gamecock football team being good “next year” – I’ll believe it when I see it.

McConnell has already shown his mastery of this game with his government restructuring “proposals.” He initially put everything into one bill, destined to sink under its own weight. Then, when the issues were split into individual bills, he ensured behind the scenes that none would survive intact.

Now he’s all for a spending cap? Most likely, it means the issue is officially dead.

3. FITSNews - November 5, 2007


We share much of your skepticism, but we find it difficult to blame McConnell for the restructuring failure.

When Sanford’s office told legisators they could vote for individual constitutional offices (and not the entire restructuring package), that’s when bill died. You could literally see our ethically-challenged, change-averse legislators divvying up who would vote for or against individual offices – assuring that none of them would get the votes needed to pass.

A pretty pathetic display on the part of legislators who are supposed to be “voting their conscience,” but to his credit, McConnell warned the governor’s office that’s what would happen.


4. A sheep takes to the waves - November 5, 2007

As a legislator well-schooled in coasting on existing waves (as opposed to taking contrarian positions that might actually result in desperately needed NEW waves being created), I will more than happily jump on my board and ride the Sanford-induced tsunami to limit spending. Baaaaaa, baaaaa, baaaaa. McConnell is a freaking sheep.

5. Disappointed - November 5, 2007

Finding it “difficult to blame McConnell for the restructuring failure” is an absolute scream.

6. verity - November 5, 2007

it is odd that instead of embracing McConnell’s spending cap plan that the Governor instead attacks. It seems like they would rather fight than win. What a sad statement.

7. Daniel - November 5, 2007

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t blame McConnell for the macro-level failure to pass restructuring. I’m simply pointing out the similarity between McConnell’s new-found calling to champion spending caps and his banner-carrying for restructuring several years ago.

McConnell convinced everyone that letting him put together an “omnibus” restructuring bill was the best way to go, and that nobody was more for resturcturing than he was. He wrote a ~900 page bill, and it never even came close to passing, due to its complexity. McConnell knew better than anyone that he would be able to have his cake and eat it to – he looked like he was on board with Sanford in public (and, most importantly, with the Post and Courier and State editorial boards), but he protected the B&CB and his cronies in the Senate by drafting an unpassable bill.

I’m not criticizing McConnell for outsmarting the restructuring proponents; I just think it’s important to recognize his strategy for what it was. And to keep it in mind when reading about the fervency of his desire for spending caps. Nobody wants true spending caps more than me. But again, I’ll believe McConnell is serious about getting it passed when I see it get passed.

8. Mr. Business - November 5, 2007

unpassable bill. It passed the Senate and died in the House. It also is interesting that Daniel will blame McConnell for it not passing even if he introduces it, gets it through committee and to the floor and loses on a vote. That would be like blaming Sanford introducing an idea and blaming him if it did not pass because he secretly tried to kill it.

9. Charles Durning - November 5, 2007

Senator Glenn McConnell reminds me of Charles Durning in “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas”!

10. Chronicler - November 5, 2007

Mr. Biz: that bill died, violently, in Senate judiciary. Try to do better in keeping up if you want to play.

11. Wilma - November 5, 2007

Sanford was for it…therfore it was destined to lose.

Very simple, actually.

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