Debt and Spending

The Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman once observed that the ultimate measure of government was what it spent. While not the only measure, it is an important one because in many ways how free we are as individuals is determined by what we’re compelled to pay to government each year. Either we work for ourselves and our families, or for government.


In this vein each year, the Tax Foundation calculates “Tax Freedom Day” based upon what day individuals across the nation as a whole have earned enough money to pay off their taxes for the year. In 2012, that day was April 17th – so government spending is indeed a proxy for freedom. It’s horrifying if you really stop and think about this number and the trend behind it because it shows we will now spend nearly the first four months of each year working for government. Worse still is that with the present trends in federal spending we are headed to some form of indentured servitude where over 70 percent of our day, week and month go to government, if there is no change to the spending juggernaut in Washington.


Encouragingly, Mark’s record is second to none in holding spending in check – and in fighting debts and deficit spending.

Mark was rated number one in the entire United States Congress by both Citizens Against Government Waste and the National Taxpayers Union for his efforts to limit federal spending and taxation. Similarly the CATO Institute ranked Mark the most financially conservative Governor in America, calling him “a staunch supporter of spending restraint and pro-growth tax reforms.”


As governor, he eliminated nearly $1 billion in deficits and debts inherited from the previous administration.


He proposed the first operational Executive Branch budget in state history, a significant step into what had been the exclusive sandbox of the State Legislature…but one that paid real dividends for the taxpayer as $260 million in vetoes were sustained in 2010 alone. These budgets were guidebooks in each of his eight years on reducing spending, and restructuring and modernizing state government – from which a whole host of other savings came.


After two years of conflict with the legislature over their “Competitive Grants” slush fund – a backdoor way in which legislators of both parties were able to send pork back to their district – he succeeded in getting his veto of the program sustained – saving taxpayers $46 million per year.


For years, legislators had circumvented the accountability that would come with a transparent budget process through a secret process called a “pass through,” where they would put unallocated dollars in an agency budget, then tell the agency how to spend it after the budget had passed. He signed an Executive Order eliminating pass-through spending for all the agencies in his Cabinet.


It was also standard practice in Columbia for legislators to “bobtail” special projects to unrelated bills, costing taxpayers millions. It prevented accountability to the taxpayer because it enabled any legislator to be for, or against a bill, because there were so many different things in the bill. If you didn’t like a part of the bill, they could agree with you as they would inevitably be “against” that part too. The most famous example of this was the Life Sciences bill, which started as a relatively narrow group of economic development incentives but morphed into a laundry list of unrelated things attached like adding four year status for USC-Sumter. Governor Sanford fought the practice of bobtailing all the way to the state Supreme Court, and ultimately won.


With regard to federal spending Mark believes entitlement reform is key simply because that is where the bulk of all federal spending takes place. He believes programs like Social Security and Medicare represent a promise to our citizens that must be kept for existing beneficiaries, but that we have to modernize these programs for future retirees so that they will be sustainable for future generations. Without entitlement reform, the Congressional Budget Office now predicts than in just eleven years there will only be enough federal revenue to cover interest on the national debt and entitlements….leaving nothing left for defense, or any other area of federal spending.


Mark had a strong record as governor in pushing for fundamental changes to the healthcare delivery system, for instance he was the first governor in the nation to successfully push for a Health Savings Account option for Medicaid. In addition, he was consistently on the leading edge of proposed reforms in Congress that were aimed at solvency for Medicare and Social Security.


Mark believes in, and would push for, a federal balanced budget amendment – but he has never waited for its arrival to push and vote for budgets that were balanced.


He believes that immigration, at the end of the day, is both an issue of national sovereignty and closely tied to the total cost of government; accordingly he believes it should be limited. He believes that the current Senate bill does not do enough to address our country’s core needs in the immigration debate and to address the hidden costs in our current immigration policy that will lead to continued demand for illegal immigration.


Finally he believes that federalism, the idea of pushing power and authority out of Washington and down to states and even the most local government possible, is a critical tool to getting our nation’s financial house in order.