A local Republican Party is threatening to sue the S.C. Legislature for chronically underfunding local governments, forcing them to raise taxes and fees on their residents.
Counties and cities depend on that money — ranging from $1,000 to $18 million a year — to help pay for services without raising taxes and fees paid by local residents.
But since the Great Recession, the GOP-controlled General Assembly has failed to live up to a 1991 law that says 4.5 percent of the state’s general fund budget must go back to local governments. Instead, the Legislature has been giving local governments only about 3 percent.
Officials with the Spartanburg County Republican Party, the Spartanburg County Tea Party and Spartanburg County Council said Thursday they are prepared to sue the General Assembly unless lawmakers fully fund the local government fund or cut state-mandated services that counties and cities must pay for.
“Columbia is beginning to sound more and more like Washington, forcing unfunded mandates onto local governments which have had to turn to increases in local taxes to make up for the unlawfully withheld revenue,” said Josh Kimbrell, chairman of the Spartanburg GOP.
Under the 4.5 percent formula, counties should receive $58 a person from the state. Now, they get about $40.
Municipalities should be getting $33 a person but only are getting about $20.
“We’re starting this fight in Spartanburg County, but this is for all 46 counties,” Kimbrell said.
State funding of the local government fund is debated annually by legislators, including some who say the time has come to abolish it.