Every Sunday The State features a column called “The Buzz” — a series of cutesy little nuggets recapping the week in state politics. This week’s column is particularly juicy – all sorts of finger-pointing over the $250 million budget fiasco at the South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
The column touches on several things of note. Among the more eyebrow-raising points:
- Sanford administration officials knew back in June that the HHS budget was out-of-whack and set to run huge deficits. Curiously, they did not formally request to run a deficit until Wednesday, November 3, 2010 — the day after Nikki Haley won the governor’s race. (Convenient timing, no?)
- Emma Forkner, the former head of HHS in the Sanford Administration, testified before a Senate Committee last week and … though she beat around the proverbial bush somewhat … she implied that Gov. Sanford’s office told her to declare that they anticipated a slower Medicaid growth rate than the actual projected rate (and therefore requested a far lesser sum of money, which is the reason for the giant hole right now) — in other words, to lie. In this article, Yvonne Wenger at the Charleston Post and Courier expands on what transpired during Forkner’s testimony:
She said the agency was headed toward a deficit as soon as the budget passed last summer. Forkner said she notified the governor’s office immediately and was told, “That it would work out.”
(State Senator Vincent) Sheheen asked Forkner, “Did the governor’s office force you to project a lower number than what you thought?”
Forkner said: “I followed the directions. How about that. How about I just say that.”
Sheheen said the testimony was disturbing. “It was clear to me that the governor’s office knew it was going to be out of balance and had no plan to deal with it,” Sheheen said.
Concluding thought: There’s something about all of this budget deficit stuff that just doesn’t pass the smell test. In addition to HHS, the Department of Corrections and the Department of Social Services requested back in December to run deficits of $7 million and $29 million respectively. Somehow Gov. Nikki Haley waved a magic wand as soon as she set foot in office and made both of those deficits disappear? Call me cynical, but I just don’t believe it. There’s no way reducing TANF (welfare) payments by a few bucks + rearranging a transportation plan + throwing in a few furloughs can wipe away a $29 million deficit so easily. Makes me think somebody wasn’t telling the truth about the need to run these deficits in the first place. The two-deficit-disappearing act sure is a convenient red herring to distract from the $250 million HHS debacle, which appears to be a direct result of a huge due diligence #fail and subsequent cover-up by the Sanford Administration.
Something just seems fishy, no?