(WSPA) – For years now, South Carolina’s legislators have been short-changing your local government, at least that’s what some Upstate leaders say, and now it looks like they’ve had enough.
The head of the Spartanburg Republican Party announced something called the the “Local Government Funding Accountability Initiative.
First, some background.
By law, the state must pay counties money to provide state services on the local level and since the recession hit that money has been cut.
Thursday, the GOP and Tea Party heads, said if the state fails to properly fund local government, they’ll file a lawsuit.
“The Spartanburg County Republican party is coordinating a group of concerned citizens across this state to hold the legislature accountable. They cannot mandate local governments to pay for things and then not pay for it,” said Josh Kimbrell, the Chairman of the Spartanburg Republican Party.
He, along with other local leaders have created the Local Government Funding Accountability Initiative.
It calls on legislators to honor a state law that gives cities and counties 4.5% of the previous year’s state revenue.
Spartanburg County alone says it’s lost 5 million each year since 2008 because of a state proviso that reduces that amount.
County officials say they’ve had to foot the bill for things like judicial services and roads and bridges permits that the state is supposed to reimburse.
“Roll back the mandates, or fully fund the local government fund. We are no longer going to stand for unfunded mandates from Columbia,” said Kimbrell.
A study in 2014 showed the state owed 344 million dollars to local governments at the time, so why haven’t more county councils come forward. Today 7news found out it has a lot to do with the fear they could lose all the funding.
“I was there when the threat was made. You better be glad for what you got cause we can go in this afternoon and take it away. What do you do with that. It’s incredible,” said Roger Nutt, Spartanburg County Councilman.
“Frankly, if they don’t do the right thing, we are prepared, and this isn’t a hollow threat, we will sue them,” said Kimbrell.
But State Rep. Brian White from Anderson, who is on the House Ways and Means Committee questions whether the 4.5% statute is even constitutional. He questions whether it’s legal to bind legislative bodies against one another which forces the state to pay a set amount.
“I encourage the lawsuit,” he said.
Furthermore, White says, despite an attempt 8 months ago, the counties have failed to adequately explain how the full 4.5% is used for state services.
“We keep saying, well show us how your using the money. Show us where you say the problems are,” he said.