Submitted June 5, 1992;
Decided Aug. 10, 1992.
Reh. Den. Dec. 8, 1992.
These actions for injunctive relief to prohibit the South Carolina Budget and Control Board (the Board) from implementing its proposed plan for budget reductions for the 1992-1993 fiscal year are in this Court's original jurisdiction by consent of the parties. We grant plaintiffs' request for injunctive relief.
On August 22, 1992, the Board adopted a plan to reduce appropriations under the 1992 Appropriations Act (the Act) because of revenue shortfall projections of approximately $200 million. The reductions were based on the rate of growth in each agency's budget over the past year. Plaintiffs contend that the Board improperly adopted this plan in that it exceeded
Initially, the Board asserts that none of the plaintiffs have standing to contest the Board's action. The allegations of individualized injuries by the plaintiffs are sufficient to show standing. Citizens for Lee County, Inc. v. Lee County, ___ S.C. ___, 416 S.E.2d 641 (1992); S.C. Wildlife Federation v. S.C. Coastal Council, 296 S.C. 187, 371 S.E.2d 521 (1988). Further, the questions involved here are of such wide concern that the rules on standing will not be inflexibly applied. Thompson v. S.C. Commission on Alcohol & Drug Abuse, 267 S.C. 463, 229 S.E.2d 718 (1976).
The Act, from which the Board's authority to reduce the rate of expenditure is derived, provides, in part:
Act No. 501, § 14N.2, 1992 S.C. Acts 160 (emphasis added). The primary rule of statutory construction is to ascertain and effectuate the intent of the Legislature. Spartanburg County D.S.S. v. Little, ___ S.C. ___, 420 S.E.2d 499 (1992); Burns v.
The language of the statue itself supports the plaintiffs' assertion that the Board acted outside its authority. The words used in a statute must be given their plain and ordinary meaning without resorting to subtle or forced construction to limit or expand the statute's operation. Hitachi Data Systems Corp. v. Leatherman, ___ S.C. ___, 420 S.E.2d 843 (1992); Burns v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Ins. Co., supra. In interpreting a statute, the terms must be construed in context and their meaning determined by looking at the other terms used in the statute. Southern Mutual Church Ins. Co. v. S.C. Windstorm & Hail Underwriting Ass'n, ___ S.C. ___, 412 S.E.2d 377 (1991). A provision should be given a reasonable and practical construction consistent with the purpose and policy of the Act. Gardner v. Biggart, ___ S.C. ___, 417 S.E.2d 858 (1992); Laurens County School Districts 55 and 56 v. Cox, ___ S.C. ___, 417 S.E.2d 560 (1992).
In reading the phrase declaring all appropriations "to be maximum, conditional and proportionate" in conjunction with the phrase that all reductions "be applied as uniformly as may be practicable," the legislative intent is apparent. The statute gives the Board the authority to make reductions only across the board based on the total appropriations. To construe this section otherwise would contravene the intent of the Legislature to appropriate funds in the proportions set forth in the Act.
In addition to the clear language of the statute, the actions of the Board itself indicate that it did not believe it had the authority to impose more than across the board proportional cuts. Since the language allowing the Board to reduce appropriations in the event of a revenue shortfall was first included in the appropriations act of 1933,
Further, at a Board meeting held on December 17, 1991, a provision which would allow reductions based on growth of the agencies' budgets over the last three fiscal years was proposed by the Board to be included in the Act. The minutes of that meeting indicate that the members knew such a provision in the Act would be a change in the authority given to them.
Where an administrative agency has consistently applied a statute in a particular manner, its construction should not be overturned absent cogent reasons. S.C. Cable Television Ass'n v. Southern Bell Tel. & Tel. Co., ___ S.C. ___, 417 S.E.2d 586 (1992); Emerson Electric Co. v. Wasson, 287 S.C. 394, 339 S.E.2d 118 (1986). It is apparent that the Board previously construed the Act as limiting its authority to making proportionate across the board cuts. The Board's current interpretation is in conflict with the legislative and administrative history of the Act. It appears to be based solely on the effect it would have on the various state agencies and, at best, has been in existence only since February of 1991. Deferring to this interpretation would be inappropriate. Bowen v. Georgetown University Hospital, 488 U.S. 204, 109 S.Ct. 468, 102 L.Ed. (2d) 493 (1988).
The Legislature has expressed its approval of proportionate across the board cuts by reenacting the provision granting the Board the authority to make reductions each year in the annual appropriations act. See Grove City College v. Bell, 465 U.S. 555, 104 S.Ct. 1211, 79 L.Ed. (2d) 516 (1984) (reenactment of a statute with knowledge of the administrative interpretation thereof is a strong indication of legislative approval of the interpretation). In addition, the provision proposed by the Board allowing cuts based on growth was presented to the Legislature during the 1992 session. Although the House adopted the language, the Senate
Finally, construing the Act to allow the Board to choose any method for reducing the rate of expenditures with the only limitation being that the reductions be as uniform as practicable would violate the separation of powers provision of the State Constitution. S.C. Const. art. I, § 8.
The legislature may not delegate its power to make laws. State ex rel. McLeod v. McInnis, 278 S.C. 307, 295 S.E.2d 633 (1982); Bauer v. S.C. State Housing Authority, 271 S.C. 219, 246 S.E.2d 869 (1978). The appropriation of public funds is a legislative function. State ex rel. McLeod v. McInnis, supra; Gregory v. Rollins, 230 S.C. 269, 95 S.E.2d 487 (1956). A statute which, in effect, gives an administrative body "an absolute, unregulated, and undefined discretion" bestows arbitrary powers and is an unlawful delegation of legislative powers. Bauer, 271 S.C. at 233, 246 S.E. (2d) at 876.
If the Act is so broad as to allow the Board to apply reductions with the only requirement being that they be applied uniformly, the effect would be to allow the Board to appropriate funds with unbridled discretion. Such an interpretation would make the Act an unlawful delegation of legislative authority. We will not construe the Act to do that which is unconstitutional. Last v. MSI Construction Co., 305 S.C. 349, 409 S.E.2d 334 (1991); Mitchell v. Owens, 304 S.C. 23, 402 S.E.2d 888 (1991) (statutes are presumed to be constitutional and will be construed so as to render them valid).
In the absence of the statutory and constitutional authority to reduce the rate of expenditure based on growth, either the Board must make the budget cuts across the board proportionately
We do not express an opinion as to the reasonableness of any plan to reduce the rate of expenditures. The only issue before this Court is whether the Board has the statutory and constitutional authority to implement the plan it has adopted. Because the Board does not have the authority to reduce the rate of expenditure based on growth, it is enjoined from implementing the budget reduction plan it has adopted.