It’s been a little more than a year since the Obama Administration delivered the stimulus package to each individual state. In South Carolina, House Speaker Bobby Harrell says the stimulus package was a budget stop-gap and he was in no means in favor of it to begin with.
“My position on the thing was if Congress voted to borrow all that money and we divide it out through the states, and our taxpayers are going to have to pay it back, whether we took it or not, then we ought to include it in the budget. If there had been any requirement that our taxpayers had to pay something additional in order to access the money, or if there had been an ability to opt out and say no thanks, give it out to the states, but reduce our taxes accordingly, I would have opted for that instead,” says Harrell.
Some critics have attacked Harrell and other Republicans in the Statehouse, saying their conservative credentials have been ruined.
“In terms of my conservative credentials, South Carolina’s state budget was $7.4 billion two years ago. It’s $5.2 billion today, it’s over $2 billion smaller. I didn’t say we’re holding the line on growth, we’ve lended the percentage of growth. It is $2 billion smaller than it was two years ago because mine and my fellow Republican’s conservative credentials would not let us raise taxes, we’re adamantly opposed to that, we cut the budget in order to keep in balance,” says Harrell.
Harrell says the stimulus money was included in the budget because the taxpayers would have to pay it back regardless if the state took it or not. Harrell says even with the stimulus money included, the budget would still be about $2 million smaller than it was two years ago. He says the state could have done things a little differently.
“The budget a couple of years ago had a huge surplus in it. When we had that huge surplus, if we would of had a mechanism in place, where we could have captured part of that surplus, protect it constitutionally, so that we got into this year, such a bad year economically that we are in now, we would be able to go back and use that reserve fund money that we had set aside for this particular purpose, we’d be in much, much better shape as a state,” says Harrell.
The House Speaker says South Carolina stands out from many other states because state lawmakers do not plan on raising taxes, except on cigarettes, to make up for the budget deficit.
(Harrell’s comments on state budget MP3 :60)