Throwback Thursday: Lawmakers ignore legal deadline for joint budget hearings

January 23, 2020

Inside Insight

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Monday of this week marked the deadline, as set by state law, for the lawmakers to begin joint, open hearings on the governor’s budget.

According to state law, the governor’s draft of the budget is due five days after the beginning of session (the law does not specify whether these are calendar or work days, so our deadline calculations are based on work days). The governor submitted his budget to the General Assembly on Jan. 13 – a week before the legal deadline.

Why is this significant? Because state law also says that within five days of the governor’s budget submission, the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance committees are to hold joint, open sessions on that budget version.

The legal deadline for those hearings to begin? This past Monday, Jan. 20.

Holding joint, open budget hearings would introduce an unprecedented level of transparency and accountability to a budget process normally characterized by backroom deals, secrecy and concentrated decision-making power in the hands of a few lawmakers – not to mention the sheer efficiency of this approach.

However, it’s not just a good idea; it’s the law. Taxpayers would do well to ask their lawmakers why these hearings have not yet begun and when and where they will be taking place – and if the hearings will not be held, why lawmakers are refusing to follow the law.

This week’s throwback is a 2012 Nerve story about an unsuccessful attempt by lawmakers to repeal this law.

Senators Propose Eliminating Joint Budget Hearings; Legal Opinion Sought

Buried near the bottom of a roughly 100-page S.C. Senate bill that would create a state Department of Administration is a seemingly harmless sentence that reads, “Section 11-11-90 of the 1976 Code is repealed effective July 1, 2013.”

That law requires the budget-writing House Ways and Means and Senate Finance committees to hold joint public hearings on the governor’s budget, beginning within five days after the executive spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year is submitted to the General Assembly.

The idea behind the joint hearings is to allow the public to get an early comprehensive look at how their tax dollars – as proposed by the governor – will be spent.

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