As the new South Carolina legislative session quickly approaches, the major problem facing lawmakers is a looming budget crisis that will likely result in severe cuts across state agencies. And, although they are the minority party in the House, Democrats are offering their own proposals to operate state government more efficiently.
As Rep. Bakari Sellers (D-Bamberg) said, “We can’t just be the party of no.” He hopes Democrats in the legislature will be given a fair chance to offer their own solutions for an expected budget shortfall of $1.3 billion. Sellers told SCRN he has prefiled several bills that would combine state agencies, saving money.
The legislation combines the Department of Public Safety and the State Law Enforcement Division into one agency. It also groups together the Corrections Department and the Department of Probation, Parole, and Pardon Services.
However, Sellers says the biggest problem with the budget is bad priorities set by legislators.
It’s not as if our spending is out of control. We don’t have any money to spend. What we do have are horrible priorities.
Sellers was very adamant about possible cuts in education spending. Last year, Democrats publicly criticized a $104 million cut for education. He says he doesn’t want that to happen again.
We yelled and screamed. I don’t even think enough people heard us, as you can tell by the turnout of public teachers… who actually voted straight Republican, so I don’t think that voice was heard. That has to be our top priority.
One of the first issues lawmakers will have to resolve are the recommendations of the Taxation Realignment Commission, or TRAC. The commission will present its formal report next month. The report is only advisory and legislators can adopt or remove any of the recommendations.
Sellers criticized the process, saying that the commissioners’ hard work will likely be tossed aside for political reasons. He recommended a straight vote on the entire proposal, without any changes.
Most of their recommendations are good. I think the process is a joke. Most times when commissions such as these come forward… if 12 out of the 18 support it, you vote up or down.
The 2011 session will begin on January 11.