It's not a good day in South Carolina when the SC House passes a budget with no additional money for counties. The House is shifting the burden on taxpayers while using the money to fund pet projects.

Despite debate, South Carolina's Local Government Fund (LGF) will remain underfunded by $75 million.

According to the South Carolina Association of Counties, the House chose to move $5 million from nonrecurring money in the LGF to recurring. This funds the $187 million in recurring funds and $25 million in nonrecurring funds. Although moving funds to the recurring line is a positive development, the total LGF funding did not change. This amount is roughly $75 million below the statutory level.

Representative Russell Ott attempted to add $3.7 million to the LGF, but this amendment was tabled by Republicans, essentially killing it. Rep. Ott told Joshua Cook that he wanted to add more amendments to fund the LGF, but couldn't get them passed. He said the $5 million was all they could get in a Republican controlled House.

According to the South Carolina Network, Rep. Harry Ott (D-St. Matthews) said, "It was especially unfair because the state still requires counties to provide specific services even without the funding."

"We're saying we want you… to do all the things we mandate you to do, we're just not going to send you the money to do it with," said Rep. Ott.

Greenville County Government Relations Officer Bob Mihalic told Joshua Cook that the state has underfunded Greenville County's LGF by approximately $25 million.

As reported previously, the state has underfunded Spartanburg County by $20 million.  Mihalic told Cook that the impact on smaller counties is greater than larger ones because they rely heavily on this money from the state.

State senator Shane Martin (R-Spartanburg) told Cook, "You really end up paying twice for the same county services." Spartanburg county councilman Roger Nutt echoed the same thing here.

According to the current law, the state is required to send at least 4.5 percent of its general fund budget each year back to the counties to pay for county services, but each year Columbia writes a proviso that suspends the law.

"If all we are going to give counties is 3 percent then why don't they put it in the statute? Because it won't pass," said Sen. Martin. "They would rather wait at the end of every year to fund all their pet projects."

"Instead of raising taxes to fund special projects, they just make the local government increase taxes.  They will keep playing these games because they know they can get away with it."

Sen. Martin told Cook that there is at least one county administrator who has given up on the LGF. Sen. Martin is not ready to give up, though.

"I'm willing to fight for the local government fund," said Martin.  "The problem is all the special projects. If we cut out all the special projects, there will be plenty of money for the local government fund."


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