The state Senate this takes up the full budget and will focus on that for the week. There is much more funding to be considered than the $5.8 billion bill. Senate Finance Chair Hugh Leatherman (R-Florence) says citizens need to know that “real” budget includes the money that flows through the state from the federal government that is also overseen and allocated– more like $22 billion.
When the Senate Finance Committee reviews the state budget, they call in agency heads to explain any unusual spending. One of those was new Department of Social Services Director Lillian Koller, who did not ask for more state money but seeks access to $500 million in federal money this year to fund a growing need for food stamps, the program that supplements the nutritional needs for people at lower income levels.
That latest DSS data show 831,000 South Carolinians getting food stamps, now called Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) assistance; that’s 384,000 households.
The number served could rise to one million, according to the previous administration. Koller says in this recession, “We’re certainly much higher than we were last year and that is why we way came in asking for the increase.”The state Legislature, or the Budget and Control Board when lawmakers are not in session, must authorize a draw-down of federal money.
Even though its federal money and not state money, general fund money, we still have to ask permission to spend additional federal money. That’s the budgeting process for the state of South Carolina. Other states, like where I came from in Hawaii, the governor had authority when the Legislature was not in session, to increase the allowance for receiving federal funds.
Koller says having to appear before the Finance Committee is part of a rigorous system of financial oversight:
This is us making sure that we are all on the same page. They understand they I understand what their expectation is, that when they give us their authorization that it’s for the benefit of our consumers and not for us to spend to hire additional staff. So they are making sure what the purpose of their authorization is going to be.
This will be one of many items the Senate will consider authorizing in the state budget this week.