Governor Mark Sanford held a budget hearing Monday with representatives of various state agencies, who talked about their budgets and possible cost cutting measures.
Sanford says this is an incredibly difficult budget year. “We still have a long way to go given the size of the hole,” said the Governor. “Half a billion dollars that has to be made up in order to keep this year’s government services current. There’s another cliff yet to come. When the federal stimulus funds come to an end you will be looking at a $920 million shortfall.”
The suggestions made for cost cutting were minimal. State agencies have already faced major cuts in recent years. There were not many ideas mentioned by agency representatives that had not already been put in place.
Department of Transportation Comptroller Angela Feaster told the Governor that her agency could save approximately $300,000 a year for each rest area that it closed. She said if the agency had to resort to that, and it’s just an idea at this time, that the rest areas considered would be those located in more developed urban areas, where motorists had other options for rest stops.
Department of Revenue Director Ray Stevens pointed out that his department had saved $800,000 by not mailing paper tax forms any more. Stevens said that South Carolina is a national leader in electronic tax filing. And Stevens said that his agency has identified and is going after 3400 South Residents who don’t file tax forms.
Stevens said the state’s tax revenue is down from the previous year. Retail sales taxes are down 6.1 percent. Withholding tax, which rarely varies, was down more than three percent. Corporate tax was down more than nine percent.
The Governor will present his budget to state lawmakers during the first weeks of January after they return to Columbia. The House and Senate will develop their own proposals.
Sanford says he welcomes cost-cutting suggestions from the public. “Good ideas matter,” said the Governor. “Someone will know someone who works in government, or knows someone who saw a program in another state before coming to South Carolina. And it’s how we’ve gotten ideas in the past. People commented that it doesn’t make sense that the state of South Carolina is running a couple of golf courses. We tried to cut them out and were not successful. Maybe in this budget year we will be.”
Sanford said on the revenue side, South Carolina has had some very good years, with record investments–more than $4 billion worth last year and the year before.