Budget Blunder

 Budget anyone? Anyone? Does anyone know where we can get a budget please?

Hopefully the members of the General Assembly will be able to come up with a deal by July 1, when the upcoming fiscal year starts. As of right now, the conferees are in a deadlock over two issues - Small business tax cuts and the State Farmer's Market.

This may be a bit confusing because the General Assembly is out of session...kind of. Regular session that is. It all has to do with "Sine Die" and "Continuting Resolutions" (or CR as the 'insiders' like to refer to them). 

So the South Carolina legislature is only supposed to be in session 6 months out of the year, 3 days a week. This year, all business was to be taken care of by 5pm Thursday, June 7th. However, we all know that us Southerners prefer to take our time and that rushing is not a practice we are accustomed to. So as time ticked down, it was clear that the legislature would have to make an exception for certain issues - known as a Sine Die resolution (Latin meaning 'without day'). The House and Senate pass this resolution basically to say that all legislation that hasn't made it past a particular point in the bill-passing process dies, and that the GA (General Assembly) will return for 'special' session. 

During this special session they are only allowed to discuss certain things, like gubernatorial vetoes, confirmations of appointments, and conference reports. Conference reports happen when a change is made to a bill after it passes one chamber, and the differences have to be worked out. For instance, when bill H123 passes the House - if when it gets to the Senate, they add an amendment, this bill is then returned to the House "with ammendments" and then the House can  concur with those amendments. If they choose not to concur, then a conference committee conisisting of both Senate and House members is appointed. The conferees draft a report (work out a compromise) that is then adopted by both chambers. 

This is exactly what is happening with the budget H4813. There were significant differences between the House and Senate verisons of the appropriation legislation: state employees pay raises, funding of port dredging, small business tax cuts, etc. The main difference that UWASC is interested in, is again - the line item allocation for the National Mortgage Settlement funds. Our intern Rafael explained the hullabaloo of the settlement fund provisons here, and hopefully by the time the conference committee adjourns - the Senate verison (that has $5 million going to the State House Authority) will remain intact. 

However, time is yet again winding down and the Chairman of the House Ways and Means committee (the committee that authors the original appropriations legislation) and the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee are battling it out. Facebook posts are even being used as weapons....the Governor included! And if an agreement isn't reached by June 30th, technically, the government isn't allowed to function. Some of you older folks may be familiar with this scenario - as it played out on the national level between President Clinton and former speaker of the House and presidential candiate Newt Gingrich.

The exception to the rule (and isn't that the one steadfast rule of politics? That there is always an exception....) is that the GA could pass a CR; a continuing resolution. This would mean that the state could run on the prior fiscal year's funding levels until the new budget is passed. However, as with many other things in government, the CR itself is a source of contention. Some are upset that the GA hasn't been able to pass a budget in the past 6 months and feel that they shouldn't be allowed anymore time. Others feel that passing a CR would be better than dealing with a temporary stall of state services. In any case, a CR was passed by the House last week and is one vote away from being passed in the Senate.

That is all that anyones knows at the moment, but as soon as more exceptions arise - we'll be back with more explanations. It will be an interesting next few days, but we'll keep you posted!

Please feel free to email (Caitlin@uwasc.org) or Tweet me! (@CaitlinMCarey).