Governor-Elect Nikki Haley is forming a new committee to help her deal with an expected budget shortfall of nearly one billion dollars.
The Fiscal Crisis Task Force will help identify the biggest financial problems the state faces next year. At a press conference in Columbia Monday, Haley said part of their job will be to cut through the confusion and disagreement about how severe the budget crisis is.
We have heard different numbers on what the budget is. We’ve heard different numbers on what the shortfall is. That is what this task force has to come up with. Give us numbers that are real. Give us numbers that we can all deal with. Put them all on the same page.
The task force’s board will be chaired by George Schroeder. Schroeder was Director of the Legislative Audit Council for 33 years before he retired last year. The other members include two legislators, a think-tank advocate, and a former congressman:
State Representative Nathan Ballentine (R-Lexington) – Ballentine has been in the Legislature for six years. In the private sector, he works for Wells Fargo Home Mortgage.
US Representative Henry Brown – a Lowcountry Republican congressman who did not seek re-election this year, Brown also worked for the Legislative Audit Council earlier in his career. Prior to his congressional service, Brown was a state legislator for 15 years.
State Senator Tom Davis (R-Beaufort) – A former chief of staff for Governor Mark Sanford, Davis was elected to the Legislature in 2008. He has garnered a reputation for his a conservative fiscal policies.
Ashley Landess – The current president of the SC Policy Council, Landess has been at the conservative think-tank for 12 years. She has been a vocal proponent for the group’s platform of limited government.
Haley said the state faces a rough year, budget-wise, and that it will be a painful one for everyone.
No one has ever said this isn’t going to hurt. This is going to hurt. I think we need to be realistic to the people of South Carolina… but I also think that we can be very smart about it. What we don’t want to do is be superficial. We don’t want to act like this is something we can cover up and make okay. What we do want to do is say, “We are going to identify this any way a small business would.”
Haley said part of the challenge will be figuring out the government’s core functions.
Everybody relies on government in different ways and everyone likes to think the way they rely on it is the core function of government. Our job is to define it and be consistent with it so that we can actually go to the public and say, “This is what we think the core functions of government are. This is how we think we’re going to get through this crisis mode.” If we do this, we will come out more competitive than when we started.
She said even federal funding will be on the table, since grants and mandates often require matching funds from state governments.
The task force will have a website (www.scbudgetcrisis.org) where citizens can anonymously report any government waste they encounter.
In a statement, South Carolina Democratic Party chair Carol Fowler criticized the panel’s membership, saying it consisted of political insiders and “Sanford administration retreads.” She also criticized the lack of women among the 19 appointments Haley has so far announced.