Supplemental Appropriations Bill aka The Great Surplus Feeding Frenzy

Background: The SC Board of Economic Advisors was scheduled to meet this week to announce the new revenue surplus numbers (new tax money coming from economic growth.) The meeting was postponed. A question was raised by several of us as to the intent of the postponement. Was the meeting inadvertently delayed or was it purposefully delayed so that the surplus would be announced after the House had finished debating the Senate amendments to the budget?

In past years, the result would be the same. The surplus would be allocated in the budget as decided by the three House members and three Senators on the budget conference committee. Normally in past years the surplus number was always a closely held secret until the last-minute. True, we were given the final plan to vote on but only after the fix was in. This somewhat resembles insider trading, but in this case information buys power.

Why This Matters: The surplus could approach $200 million for the fiscal year ending this quarter and another $200 million next quarter at the start of the new fiscal year.

The Obvious Solution: Instead of spreading the new money around to benefit the dozens of lobbyists who hang around Columbia, just split the surplus between DOT and the county transportation committees. Direct that the funds are to be used to address serious safety projects first then road and bridge repair. Let our citizens see repairs being made.

Why a Supplemental Appropriations Bill: Because some of us figured out what would happen to the surplus and asked why. We knew that the Senate amended the budget so that any new revenue surpluses should go to road repair. The Senate amendments have been returned to the House for us to debate containing an immediate solution to stop our road decline. How does our budget committee respond? By announcing a supplemental appropriations bill which would require that the Senate surplus amendment be removed from the current budget. This would create a lobbyist feeding frenzy around the surplus. The supplemental appropriations bill is pure piffle designed to distract and delay.

Remember the Basics: Maintaining roads is a core function of government. The General Assembly has allowed our road system to decline over the years while shamelessly spending surplus revenue on countless superficial projects. This surplus belongs to the taxpayers, not the lobbyists. We need to spend it on the roads in a transparent, efficient and verifiable manner.

The Long Term Benefit: This surplus allows the Legislature time to improve the several road funding plans that exist so that we actually come up with a viable long-term solution to restructure DOT and address our broken tax system.

Hwy 101 Roundabout Public Meeting Notice

Opportunity for Public Meeting Notice

NOTICE TO CITIZENS OF GREENVILLE COUNTY:

 All interested persons are advised that the South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) is proposing improvements to the intersection of SC 101 at S-135 (N. McElhaney Road) in Greer, South Carolina. This location was identified for improvement by SCDOT’s Federal Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) which uses data-driven analysis to identify high crash locations and/or patterns throughout the state.

SCDOT is proposing to construct a roundabout at this location. National research has proven modern roundabouts reduce fatal and injury crashes by up to 80% and all crashes up to 35%. SCDOT has constructed 17 modern roundabouts through the HSIP in South Carolina. A recent safety evaluation of these projects, found that fatal crashes were reduced by 100%, crashes resulting in injury where reduced by 71% and total crashes were reduced by 71%.

New right-of-way will be needed for the proposed improvements and no displacements are anticipated. Any interested person may request that a public meeting be held on the project with respect to any possible social, economic, and environmental effect of the proposal on the community. This request must be submitted in writing to Mr. Keith Riddle, P.E., Safety Projects Engineer, SCDOT, Room 524, Post Office Box 191, Columbia, South Carolina, 29202-0191, and received by SCDOT no later than Monday, June 8th, 2015. It is requested that your letter contain a telephone number where you may be contacted between 8:30 am and 5:00 pm. In the event such a request is received and a public meeting held, a future notice of the time and place of the meeting will be published.

Additional information regarding this project may also be obtained by calling Keith Riddle, SCDOT Safety Projects Engineer in Columbia at 803-737-0403.

Legislation Pending in the Senate

The following legislation has been passed by the House but remains pending in the Senate:

Ethics Reform: The house passed a package of 12 ethics reform bills in addition to an omnibus package that rolls the reform measures into one bill. Below are the highlights of the House ethics reform package.

1. Income Disclosure: Requires members of the General Assembly to disclose the source and type of all income received from any private entity.

Status: In Senate Read more

Hwy 101 Roundabout Public Hearing Possible

SCDOT will announce the details of a public hearing next week on the proposed roundabout to be built on Hwy 101 North in front of Lake Cunningham Fire Department.

The roundabout, if approved, will be funded solely from federal highway funds as part of a safety program directed toward high accident intersections. Apparently, this intersection falls into their project parameters.

The obvious question revolves around a roundabout’s (now that’s a bad pun) impact on the fire station. Several meetings have taken place that have included SCDOT engineers, fire commissioners, county council members, state representatives, a state senator and a staff member from an US senator’s office.

SCDOT engineers insist that the roundabout will not delay the response time of the fire department and will dramatically increase safety.

Elected officials remain skeptical for several reasons. How much new traffic congestion will be caused by the roundabout during rush hour? Will potential traffic congestion impede the fire station? Isn’t the Milford Church intersection on Hwy 101 much more of a safety issue than the intersection at the fire station? Couldn’t the funds be better spent considering our other road needs?

SCDOT confirmed that we could not transfer the funds towards another project in our area.

So, they will provide an opportunity for a public hearing and I will publish how to contact them to affirm that a hearing is wanted by the public.

DHEC Oversight of Abortion Clinics

On 29 May 2013, I drafted a letter to the Legislative Audit Council requesting them to review if DHEC was regulating abortion clinics according to state law. Several House members added their names to the letter. A copy can be found at SCLAC DHEC Audit Letter.

The audit results were released this week. They may be found here.

I was congratulated on my efforts to determine if DHEC was following state law. Looking for congratulations was not the purpose of the letter and I did not feel like celebrating when I saw the results. The summary notes the missed inspections, lack of accurate reporting and failure to provide a way for patients to complain of bad treatment. The comments about our lack of utilizing ultrasounds to their full extent to prevent abortions is most disturbing.

The lack of DHEC oversight of South Carolina abortion clinics condemns the mother and unborn child to a shadowy world of potentially unsafe and painful procedures.

You can be assured that those of us who requested this audit will take the steps necessary to correct DHEC’s failures in this matter.

Tommy Stringer