Since I am no longer paid to do so, I seldom read letters to the editor any more. So I appreciate that our own Michael Rodgers took time to call attention to his letter in The State yesterday, so that I might share it. Here it is:
Modernize our S.C. government
Cindi Scoppe’s Thursday column, “Why Haley won some, lost some budget vetoes,” correctly declares that Gov. Nikki Haley’s request to change budget numbers would upend what a governor is. However, with the way our state government functions, Gov. Haley’s request is actually a clever response. In effect, she is asking for one seat at the table with the six-member legislative conference committee.
This is turnabout as fair play, because the Legislature gets two seats at the five-member executive committee called the Budget and Control Board.
Obviously, having an executive legislate is as wrong as having legislators execute. By separating the powers, we can modernize our state government. The Legislature should set the mission (general tasks) and the scope (total budget not to be exceeded), let the governor and her agency heads execute, and vet the results by having oversight hearings. Thus the Legislature will give the executive branch the flexibility needed to accomplish legislative goals more efficiently.
And here’s my favorite excerpt from the column to which he was responding:
USED WELL, THE line-item veto is a powerful weapon to fight budgetary logrolling. In fact, used well, it can empower legislators as much as it empowers governors.
Although House members can reject individual spending items when the House debates the budget and senators can reject individual items when the Senate debates the budget, the final version of the budget often bears little resemblance to those early plans. It is the work of a conference committee of three representatives and three senators, and it is presented to the House and Senate as a package: Lawmakers can accept the entire thing, or they can reject the entire thing. They can’t amend it.
The governor can amend it by deletion — within reason. She can’t strike words out of provisos to change their meaning, and she can’t change the numbers, as she now says she should be able to do, but which would upend the whole idea of what a veto actually is. And what a governor is.
But she can eliminate entire spending items and provisos, which set forth the rules for some of the spending. And by doing that, she gives legislators the opportunity to consider those items individually, without having to worry that voting against them would result in a government shutdown.
This doesn’t automatically bust up the vote-trading coalitions — you patronize my museum, and I’ll love your parade — and in fact it can strengthen them if a governor goes after too many parochial projects, as then-Gov. Mark Sanford discovered. And rediscovered. And never quite learned. But sometimes it shines enough of a spotlight on ill-considered expenditures to force legislators to back down…