At center of budget talks, ways to fund local governments

State's budget debate

CONWAY, SC (WMBF) - State lawmakers have been meeting in Columbia to discuss the state's $22.7 billion budget for the upcoming year. A big part of that discussion centers on funding to local governments.

There are several state funded programs local governments have to pay for to maintain, such as updating libraries, jails, and holding political elections. In return the state agrees to help cover some of the costs, but a recent study shows the state came up about $130 million short on its end of the bargain for funding local governments last year.

Each year Horry County spends about $27 million on state mandated programs and the state only pays 9.9% of that amount. The county has been paying the extra $17 million for these programs and Horry County Council member Gary Loftus said that is money that can go somewhere else like helping fix roads and to buy new equipment for fire and police departments.

"Either we spend on what we feel are unnecessary programs," Loftus said. "Or we could be using that money somewhere else or better yet, we could cut people's taxes."

Loftus added he does not expect much to change in the way of state aid anytime soon.

"It's going to take a long time or a lot of will power on the part of a lot of legislators."

A special House committee is studying the issue and plans to introduce new legislation later this year to change how local governments get funding.

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