COLUMBIA - It is a new budget, but Gov. Mark Sanford's tune is the same.
Mr. Sanford started, and ended, a preliminary 2007-08 budget hearing Monday by calling for a population growth-plus-inflation cap on spending increases.
"In other words, government ought to grow, but government ought not to grow faster than people's pocketbooks and wallets," he said.
Mr. Sanford met with the heads of five departments Monday: commerce; transportation; parks, recreation and tourism; insurance; and labor, licensing and regulation.
He said requests for new spending for 2007-08 total about $800 million.
If new spending is limited to the cap he suggests, though, the state should spend only an extra $400 million next year, he said.
Mr. Sanford asked the departments to identify their most and least important budget requests.
Among those rated most important? Tourism promotion and, for the Department of Transportation, congestion management.
Least important? The fireworks program and national ads promoting the state.
"The word on the street in terms of South Carolina is out there," Commerce Secretary Joe Taylor explained.
Mr. Sanford and lawmakers sparred last session over limiting government growth, including questioning each other's calculations of how much spending had increased.
A couple of lawmakers Monday, though, predicted that legislators would welcome Mr. Sanford's spending cap.
"That's what we said all along - after we paid back all these trust funds and stuff, that we owed, then we'd get back on track," said Rep. Skipper Perry, R-Aiken. "And we're pretty much back on track now."
Rep. Bill Herbkersman, R-Bluffton, said it will probably be easier for lawmakers to commit to spending less in 2007, when they're not worried about re-election.
Voters always want to hear that lawmakers are limiting spending, he said.
"I think that (Sanford's cap proposal) is pretty fair," Mr. Herbkersman said.
Monday's hearing was the first of several budget hearings the governor has planned. The Department of Education has a hearing scheduled for Friday.
The Legislature probably won't finish the budget for fiscal 2008, which starts July 1, until late spring.
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