Senators fight back after state board elimination

PEE DEE, SC(WMBF) - Governor Nikki Haley once called it a big, green, ugly monster. In a 36-2 vote on Tuesday, South Carolina senators moved to eliminate the state's Budget and Control Board. Legislators say that puts more financial power in the hands of Governor Haley.

In an effort to reform state government and consolidate committees and boards, Governor Haley proposed to transfer more responsibilities and create a Department of Administration.

Although the bill eliminating the state's Budget and Control Board passed, senators in the Pee Dee are fighting back with a bill of their own.

"It's basically very similar to the current budget and control board that we have now, it'll be basically the same people who will be serving on that board," said Senator Kent Williams.

Wednesday, state senators adopted a bill, proposed by Senator Hugh Leatherman and Senator Gerald Malloy, called the Procurement Oversight Board.

Just like the former Budget and Control Board, this new board will consist of the same five members including the Governor, the Comptroller General, the State Treasurer, the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Under the new proposed board, the members will have four-year terms.

Legislators say the new board will review state issued bonds and contracts, while being managed by the Department of Administration - leaving the other responsibilities to the governor herself.

South Carolina is the only state with a handful of elected officials making decisions over a large portion of the state's operations and spending.

"As a matter of political philosophy, South Carolina is different is different from some state's and certainly different from the federal government in that you have a system where power is concentrated very heavily on legislature and the governor has somewhat diminished authority. In some state's the governor has all the authority and in South Carolina it's divvied up in the Budget Control elected officers," said Florence Mayor Stephen Wukela,"...if all that power was vested in the governor or some other entity, certainly that would diminish the power of the Treasurer, of the Comptroller General of the Chairman of the Finance Committee."

Areas in the Pee Dee depend on Senator Hugh Leatherman's input on the board to finance community projects.

Recently the board approved funding to repave and restore Oakland Avenue in Florence.

The group also helped finance the new McGowan Commons to bring more affordable housing to the Pee Dee area, and legislators admit Senator Leatherman helps make things happen when it comes to bringing the paper to the Pee Dee.

"Having a senator from your town as the chairman of the Finance Committee goes a long way, trust me," said Senator Williams.

"He has a very large role writing the budget for the state and framing the state's revenue priority," said Mayor Wukela.

Pee Dee legislators say the Budget and Control Board wasn't perfect, but made great decisions and gives the state checks and balances.

"I think ten eyes are better than two eyes, basically that's what it boils down to and so I just didn't feel comfortable giving that much responsibility to one person," said Senator Williams.

Although the senate has voted to eliminate the Budget and Control Board, as well as adopt a revised board, the bills still have to pass through the house.

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