South Carolina has historically been a “legislative state” with a tradition of a “commission” approach to government that goes at least as far back as the State Sinking Fund Commission of 1870. Joining legislators with executive-branch decision makers challenges the doctrine of separation of powers expressed in Article I, section 8 of the modern state constitution.
In 1919 the General Assembly created a three-member State Budget Commission (SBC) to soften its political tensions with the governor over taxation issues. The SBC’s objective was to connect the governor with the chairs of the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee during the budget preparation process. Advance endorsement by key legislators before a proposed budget was sent to the General Assembly was intended to encourage easier adoption.
Act 621, passed in 1948, expanded the SBC into a State Budget and Control Board (SBCB). The act added the treasurer and comptroller general to the new board and consolidated several other administrative units of state government. Since budget preparation is an “executive” rather than a “legislative” power, legal and political challenges to the continued membership of the two legislators have questioned whether the SBCB is actually an executive agency. With a majority of three executive-branch officers, the five-member board composition has survived. Some pressure on its budget preparation role has been reduced by legislation, beginning with fiscal year 1995, that authorized the governor’s office to propose an “executive budget.” In 1977 the General Assembly created an executive director’s position to replace the state auditor who had acted informally for almost two decades as the board’s secretary. The board is reorganized internally on a fairly frequent basis and in 2003 had eight divisions: General Services, Budget, Retirement, Insurance and Grants, Procurement, Chief Information Officer, Strategic Planning & Operations, and Internal Audit & Performance Review. The SBCB employs approximately eleven hundred people who function as the central management agency for state government; who provide selected staff support for the governor’s office, the General Assembly, and the judiciary; and who assist local governments and public groups such as state retirees.