By RICK BRUNDRETT
S.C. voters in Tuesday’s general election easily approved constitutional amendments to increase the state’s two main “rainy-day” funds.
With all 46 counties reporting, the proposals to expand the General Reserve Fund (GRF) and Capital Reserve Fund (CRF) passed by about 62% of the vote, according to unofficial State Election Commission results. Of the more than 1.5 million total votes cast, at least 939,000 voters said “yes” to each amendment.
The South Carolina Policy Council – The Nerve’s parent organization – for months publicly supported passage of both amendments, partnering last week with Americans for Tax Reform, a national taxpayer advocacy group, in a series of statewide meetings with voters and the media.
“South Carolina voters sent a clear signal they support conservative, smart budgeting policies by strongly supporting both amendments,” SCPC Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse said in a prepared statement. “With passage of these amendments, voters are helping South Carolina avoid large cuts to government services or unwanted tax increases in difficult economic times due to an economic recession or large natural disasters.”
“We also thank legislators on both sides of the aisle for coming together in a historic, bipartisan way for the good of South Carolina,” Woodhouse added. “With stronger reserve accounts, lawmakers can responsibly look at further tax relief and reform to make S.C. more competitive for jobs and new business.”
Woodhouse in August expressed concerns the amendments might not pass following a statewide Policy Council poll indicating that the proposals could fail because of a lack of voter awareness and complex voter language.
One of the amendments would increase the GRF over four fiscal years from 5% to 7% of general fund revenues from the latest completed year. The other amendment would raise the CRF from 2% to 3% of those revenues.
Two state lawmakers – Rep. Gary Simrill, R-York, the former House majority leader who announced earlier this year he would not seek re-election after serving 30 years; and longtime Sen. John Scott, D-Richland – told The Nerve in August that enlarging the two reserve accounts was needed to help offset a possible recession.
The GRF and CRF balances for the fiscal year that ended June 30 were $458.9 million and $183.5 million, respectively, state comptroller general records show. This fiscal year’s state budget, which includes state, federal and “other” funds, totals $38 billion.
The CRF amendment requires lawmakers to use that reserve to offset midyear budget cuts if necessary. Under the current state constitution, the CRF can’t be used to offset midyear cuts but must be tapped to replenish the GRF if that account was needed to cover “operating deficits of state government.”
Amendments to the S.C. Constitution must be approved by two-thirds of each chamber of the 170-member General Assembly and a majority of qualified voters in the next general election for House members, followed by a majority vote of each legislative chamber supporting ratification.
By near-unanimous votes, the Legislature in June passed a joint resolution and a companion bill to increase the two reserve funds.
Brundrett is the news editor of The Nerve (www.thenerve.org). Contact him at 803-394-8273 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @RickBrundrett. Follow The Nerve on Facebook and Twitter @thenervesc.
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