Thursday, January 14, 2016

Get a front row seat at the Local Government Fund budget hearing

It’s the first week of the new legislative session and that means subcommittees of the House Ways and Means committee are starting to work on their budget recommendations.

The budget process generally takes the entire session to complete. The budget originates in the House and then goes to the Senate. Typically, House subcommittees start work in early January with recommendations going to the full committee in mid-February. The budget gets to the full House the week of March 7 then heads to the Senate where the process repeats.

One budget issue the Association closely follows every year is the Local Government Fund. On Tuesday, the Ways and Means subcommittee on Legislative, Executive and Local Government had its first meeting of the year taking testimony about the Local Government Fund.

Representative Bill Herbkersman (R-Beaufort) is the chairman of the subcommittee. Representative Bill Whitmire (R-Oconee) is a returning member. He is joined by Representatives Deborah Long (R-Lancaster) and Garry Smith (R-Greenville) who are new to the committee.

It’s at the subcommittee level where committee members hear testimony from state agency representatives and other organizations interested in budget items such as the Local Government Fund. Subcommittee hearings are typically the one chance interested parties have to give testimony on budget items.

These meetings are usually fairly informal. This week’s hearing took place in one of the small meeting rooms rather than the large committee room giving it a more relaxed and intimate feel.

Since 2010, the Local Government Fund has been stuck in a pattern of being underfunded following the recession. For FY 16 for cities and towns, the legislature appropriated $14 million less than promised under state law. Read more about the history of the Local Government Fund here.

On January 12, Melissa Carter, the Association’s research and legislative liaison, appeared before the subcommittee to make the case for full funding of the Local Government Fund. She requested the Ways and Means committee increase the FY 17 Local Government Fund base funding to the level required by law.

Melissa went on detail the local government challenges from the floods in October. She requested the subcommittee consider funding the 25 percent match to FEMA and establish a fund for local governments to use for un-reimbursable flood damage expenses.

Hear more about what happened at the hearing in a City Quick Connect podcast interview with Melissa recorded after the hearing.

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