Lawmakers in both chambers approved on Tuesday a compromise on the Department of Administration bill, which moves some of the functions now under the Budget and Control Board into the governor’s cabinet. The House passed the bill by a vote of 118 to 0 before sending it to the Senate, where a few lawmakers held up the vote over concerns the bill left in tact the basic structure of the board. The bill creates a State Fiscal Accountability Authority, which, like the Budget and Control Board, will house management of bonds and procurement.
Procurement—the process by which government obtains goods and services from outside the government—costs the state $1.2 billion per year according to Sen. Paul Thurmond. The Charleston Republican voted against the compromise along side Sen. Shane Martin, R-Pauline. Martin filibustered the bill most of the afternoon, though most senators were prepared to okay the compromise—the final vote was 39-4. “What we’re here to talk about today is government restructuring in name only,” said Martin.
Senators Lee Bright, R-Roebuck, and Kevin Bryant, R-Anderson, also voted against the measure.
Martin compared the compromise to putting lipstick on a pig because the newly-created authority has the same members and keeps some of the same core services. He said he wanted to be sure people of the state understand nothing much would change if senators passed the compromise. The governor, treasurer, comptroller general, and the House Ways and Means Committee and Senate Finance Committee chairmen make up the Budget and Control Board.
Martin joined the libertarian-leaning groups, Palmetto Liberty PAC and the S.C. Policy Council in calling the compromise the “BCB-lite.” Those two groups criticized the compromise on social media Tuesday afternoon. But Sen. Shane Massey, R-Edgefield, disagreed. “I don’t think it’s the Budget and Control Board-lite, and I don’t think it’s keeping the core functions,” he said. But he did admit the compromise didn’t really abolish the board.
Many senators urging passage of the compromise said that despite the shortfalls, it was a significant government reform bill. Sen. Larry Martin, R-Pickens, said that while the bill wasn’t all he had hoped for, “it is a major, major step forward.”
The bill moves a handful of government functions into the Department of Administration including human resources, information technology and state vehicles, to name a few. Also included is a provision for each standing committee to oversee a state agency that it will investigate every seven years. The bill also stipulates that only the General Assembly may recognize agency deficits.
“Theoretically, it should cost less money,” said Rep. Greg Delleney to House members. “But that remains to be seen.” The Chester Republican sat on the conference committee that agreed to the compromise.
The bill now heads to Gov. Nikki Haley’s desk, where she is set to sign the bill into law. Those following the progress of Department of Administration bill say it will be a victory Haley may highlight Wednesday in her State of the State address before the General Assembly.
Sen. Vince Sheheen, D-Camden, sponsored the restructuring legislation. Sheheen is a probable 2014 gubernatorial candidate.