Unlike many laws passed by politicians, the state budget transparency law is clear and easy to understand.
The Governor is supposed to submit a proposed budget in January and then the Senate and House budget committees are supposed to hold joint open meetings to make changes.
Easy for the public to participate and track.
Here’s the problem: state legislators break that law every year.
Instead of debating the Governor’s proposal line-by-line, they ignore it.
Instead of holding “joint open meetings”, legislators hold secret meetings and take unrecorded votes.
Instead of taking a zero-based budgeting approach, they just add spending to last year’s budget.
Instead of analyzing which programs work well and which don’t (think about our roads, school system and corporate welfare), they just funnel more money to their favored bureaucrats.
They did it again last week.
The results of not following the budget law are disastrous for us.
That’s nothing new.
But the worst outcome for South Carolinians when our state legislators don’t follow the law is that they steal power that belongs to us.
It’s our money.
We should be able to advise our representatives how to spend it and ultimately see where they did spend it...
...in the easiest, simplest format possible.
That’s the point of our budget law (SC Code: 11-11-90).
When legislators have to debate the Governor’s budget in public “joint open meetings”, we can participate in the process and track their votes.
But when they ignore the law, Statehouse politicians are able to remove us from the decision-making process.
And when they take us out of the decision-making process without fear of accountability...
...they funnel our money to their favored special interests with NO way of tracking how our tax dollars get spent.
This is the single-biggest reason why RINOs continue to get re-elected.
This is the reason we don’t have many challenger candidates who run against the incumbents.
How can we possibly have a chance when these state legislators are using OUR tax dollars to grow THEIR re-election machine?
Whether it’s local government bureaucrats or community non-profit board members...
...these earmark beneficiaries become loyal campaign donors or “get out the vote” volunteers for the next election.
And the politicians get away with it because they break the law and distribute our money behind closed doors.
A new report from The State newspaper (Columbia, SC) shows how the secret earmark process works, what specific legislators are requesting them and, for the first time, what groups are getting our money.
Here’s a list of the pet project earmarks from last year’s budget:
If the list isn’t showing up on your screen, you can click HERE.
Here are some “low”lights:
House Ways & Means Chairman Murrell Smith (R-Sumter) got $2 million for the City of Sumter to build tennis courts.
Smith also earmarked $3 million of your tax dollars to an unknown project - we have no idea how that money was spent.
State Rep. Todd Rutherford (D-Richland) got $500,000 to the City of Columbia for a walking trail.
House Majority Leader “Gas Tax” Gary Simrill (R-York) had wingmen from both parties – state Reps. “Mayor” Leon Stavrinakis (D-Charleston) and William Cogswell (R-Charleston) – to get $250,000 for the Charleston Library Society.
Did we mention state Rep. Cogswell is on the Board of Trustees at the Charleston Library Society?
How does “Gas Tax” Gary Simrill benefit from a pet project in Charleston when he represents Rock Hill?
I strongly urge you to take the time scroll through your county and look to see if your state legislators funneled money to a special interest or pet project.
Don’t focus on the dollar amounts.
Think about what your legislator had to give up to get these pet projects.
What do I mean by that?
Let me explain...
When Senate Finance Committee Chairman Corrupt Hugh Leatherman finalizes the budget, he ultimately approves of all these secretive earmarks.
In exchange for doling out money to your state legislator’s pet project, Leatherman is going to want something from your state legislator in return.
Was it a vote on a tax hike Leatherman wanted?
Only your state legislator really knows the answer to that.
But when your state legislator asks Corrupt Hugh Leatherman to approve their earmark request, they’re giving YOUR power to the most powerful, corrupt politician in the state.
...instead of fighting to get a road in YOUR district fixed (like they’re supposed to do), your state Senator cut a deal with Leatherman to funnel your money to the county Park & Rec Department.
Your road doesn’t get fixed.
But your state Senator just locked up the votes of a few bureaucrats who got their project financed.
You see how they just gave your power away?
The amount of money is trivial.
Giving your power away to benefit themselves is NOT.
And that’s the motivation of so many of our state politicians in Columbia.
They don’t care about us.
They definitely don’t care about protecting our rights...
...as we saw last week when they killed a bill to restore our 2nd Amendment right for the 5th straight year.
They just use our money to steal power that rightfully belongs to US!
So how can we stop this?
How can we get our power back from our politicians?
How can we tear down this corrupt system?
The reports I shared you from The Nerve and The State are a great start.
Take a look at them.
The new budget process starts in November.
Let’s hold them accountable by forcing them to answer to you.
Some good questions for your state legislators:
Did you vote to approve the state budget last year?
Why aren’t you following the budget transparency law? Why aren’t you and your leaders holding joint open meetings per SC Code: 11-11-90?
Did you use my money for an earmarked project?
If so, explain how was it spent and how it benefits me and my family?
What did you give your leadership in exchange to getting that earmark approved?
If you didn’t use my money for a pet project, why did you vote to approve the budget? What are you doing to stop this corruption?
Forcing them to answer these questions is a start.
It will pressure them to follow the law, include us in the process and give back power that belongs to us.
WHAT CAN YOU DO RIGHT NOW?
CLICK HERE to send a direct message to your state representatives asking them about the state budget.
Why aren’t they following the transparency laws?
Are they funneling money to special interests?
If they aren’t, what are they doing to stop the corruption?
As always, we provide a “form email” for you to send to your politician.
However, I highly encourage you to personalize and edit our pre-written message – especially if you notice they funneled money to a pet project.
The more personal the note, the more impact it will have with your politicians.
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It’s a great way to stay in touch with us AND with like-minded South Carolinians.
Like FAN of SC’s page and share it with your friends.
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If you have trouble connecting with your state legislators, please reach out to me immediately.
President, Freedom Action Network of South Carolina