Beaufort News

Davis bill would reveal 'strings' attached to federal money

State Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, wants to take legislators off "autopilot" when it comes to accepting money from the federal government.

A bill drafted by Davis to make state agencies disclose any strings attached to federal dollars passed the S.C. House of Representatives without opposition Wednesday. Because it passed the S.C. Senate last month, the bill is now on its way to Gov. Nikki Haley's desk.

"People need to realize that the increased federal funding of state obligations is coming with loss of control," Davis said. "What this bill does is, it makes an agency provide a very clear record to legislators as to what is going to be the real dollars-and-cents effect -- long term -- of accepting federal money."

Ashley Landess, president of the S.C. Policy Council, which advocates limited government and free enterprise, said she thinks the legislation, if signed into law, could help dispel the notion that the federal money simply "rains down" on states.

"From education policy to health care policy, federal funds come with strings," Landess said. "I think this is a big step for really understanding what the federal dollars are going to force on us."

Between 2001 and 2011, federal funds accepted by South Carolina grew from $4.3 billion to $8.2 billion, according to figures provided by Davis.

For example, in 2009 South Carolina accepted $734 million of extra federal stimulus money for Medicaid. But Davis said agreeing to take the funds limited the state's ability to raise eligibility requirements and thereby control the number of people in the program.

Davis said he voted against the funds for that reason, and other legislators have told him they would have opposed it, too, had they known about the restrictions.