Thursday, November 08, 2007
mega dittos to Representative Michael Thompson!
Heed warnings of 2006: Republicans must regain fiscal credibility
Rep. Michael D. Thompson
Thursday, November 8, 2007
In his 2003 book, “Breach of Trust,” U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn writes, “Power is like morphine. It dulls the senses, impairs judgment, and leads politicians to make choices that damage their own character and the machinery of Democracy.”
Sadly, when it comes to spending your tax dollars, our national leaders have been on a steady “morphine drip” in recent years.
In Washington, D.C., Republicans grew the national debt by $3 trillion from 2000-2006, losing any shred of fiscal conservative credibility in addition to their control of Congress. According to a poll taken shortly after the 2006 elections, 40 percent of Americans said they believed Republicans were the party of “big government.” I find that number surprising only because it wasn’t higher.
In South Carolina, we face similar issues.
At the heart of these troubling developments is a fundamentally flawed process. I believe changing this process is the first step in restoring Republican credibility both in Washington and Columbia.
To his credit, our own Sen. Jim DeMint is leading the way in Washington to change what he calls the “culture of how we spend America’s money.” Earlier this year Sen. DeMint offered a bill that would force legislators to put their names on spending requests that have been historically slipped into massive budget bills at the last minute. Sen. DeMint calls these million-dollar pork projects “earmarks.”
I call them budget busters, which is why this year I am pre-filing legislation in Columbia to bring this type of secret spending out in the open at the state level.
Not only will my bill require individual legislators to put their names on specific spending requests, it will require the sub-committee and committee chairmen who approve these requests to attach their names to the individual spending items as well.
Additionally, unlike our current system, no spending item would be approved without the opportunity for a full and open debate in both chambers. Simply put, if a state legislator wants money for a pet project, he or she would be required to stand up in front of the legislature and justify the expenditure on its merits.
My bill would also eliminate the so-called “competitive grants” program. Created with the intent of fostering economic development, this $46 million program has instead become a legislative slush fund for projects that have very little to do with economic development in our state. This is why I supported the governor when he vetoed the millions of dollars for this program.
Here is my concern: Given a projected half-billion-dollar shortfall next fiscal year, can we adequately support the core services of government if we are wasting millions of taxpayer dollars behind closed doors?
Republicans have a simple choice when we reconvene in January. We can either heed the warnings of the 2006 Congressional elections and insist on reforms to tighten up our spending practices, or face extinction as this state’s majority party.
Michael D. Thompson represents Anderson County’s District 9 in the South Carolina House of Representatives.