Governor: Legislature Must Set a Deadline for Dealing with Cuts
GOVERNOR INVITES LEGISLATORS TO PARTICIPATE IN BUDGET HEARINGS
Governor Mark Sanford said today it is essential for the legislature to set a deadline before the election for dealing with budget cuts, and as part of ongoing conversations with legislators has invited them and their staffs to his upcoming budget hearings in order to begin formulating a plan for cuts.
Last week, state economists said state revenue would likely come in substantially below previous estimates, to the tune of about four percent or about $250 million in needed cuts. Unless the legislature deals with the cuts in a targeted fashion then all state agencies will have to be cut equally, leaving no room for setting spending priorities.
First, in terms of specific savings, the governor is first asking the General Assembly to reconsider his previously issued budget vetoes and Executive Budget savings, noting that the state was in a far different financial situation when those proposals were initially rejected by the legislature.
Second, the governor invited members of the legislature and their staffs to participate in the his upcoming budget hearings in order to begin the process of working cooperatively on a targeted cuts plan. The spending cuts are needed largely because of substantial overspending in the years leading up to the most recent budget. All told, spending grew by more than 40 percent, a rate of growth far faster than that of the underlying economy.
Third, the governor has spoken with legislative leaders over the past week about the need for targeted cuts. Most now agree about the need for a targeted approach, but have so far been unwilling to commit to a timeline for making them. If legislators do return for a special session either on their own or after being called back by the governor, Gov. Sanford is asking that they forgo payment for the special session due to the state's financial situation.
"If Congressional leaders and the president can come close to a $700 billion agreement in one week, we should be able to come up with $250 million in cuts over the course of a month," Gov. Sanford said. "Some will offer a whole lot of excuses as to why this has to wait until January, but we'd respectfully suggest that we simply can't afford to wait that long. Some tough choices are going to have to be made over the next few weeks, and we stand ready to work with legislative leaders as they formulate a plan for targeted cuts. We've said before that any family out there in tough times would cut from their movie budget before they cut from their grocery budget, and we think government ought to operate on that same principle."