When I ran for office eight years ago, I thought South Carolina needed the following reforms:
Create Budgetary Spending Caps, Develop Comprehensive Tax Reform, Establish Zero-based Budgeting, Eliminate Competitive Grants, Create Inspector General, Allow Governor to Appoint Constitutional Officers, Create Dept. of Administration, Shorten the Legislative Session, Require More Recorded Votes, Strengthen Disclosure Laws, Expand Home Rule, End Gerrymandering, Reform Judicial Elections
Certainly this was big talk from someone who had never held office before on any level, but I was committed. I was even photographed with the late Rep. Bill Wylie signing a voter contract listing these reforms. He had never held office either.
These specific reforms were in addition to protecting our 2nd Amendment rights, defending the unborn child’s right to life, stopping illegal immigration into South Carolina, limiting government intrusion into our daily lives, limiting government growth, improving education, expanding parental school choice, not raising taxes and in general, voting like I had some common sense.
So, was anything accomplished? Surprisingly more than you might have thought, considering the number of economic crises and major political distractions that occurred since I took office.
After the GOP primary in June 2008, the stock market crashed badly ushering in four years of economic hardship, tax revenues fell which forced the General Assembly to cut the state budget by about 25% in 2009, Governor Sanford became a lame duck and was threatened impeachment over his choice of hiking trails, the recession continued as did the state budget fights, Governor Haley was elected in a major upset of the GOP establishment, Lt. Governor Ken Ard was elected and then resigned under a cloud of campaign funded party dresses, long standing Senate President Pro Temp Glenn McConnell did his duty, resigned and moved up to Lt. Governor, House Speaker Bobby Harrell resigned under indictment and our new Speaker Jay Lucas took control of the House under difficult circumstances. Out of the four House elections that I have faced, three have been contested.
During this seven-year fracas, the Republican-controlled House managed to pass legislation that reformed or strengthened the vast majority of those promises aforementioned. I’m glad to have either developed and voted for legislation that drove those reforms or by irritating those people who stood in the way.
So, after seven years, what does South Carolina need now? What do my friends and neighbors here in Blue Ridge and Greer need?
For South Carolina –
In addition to protecting and refining the aforementioned legislation, our 2016 Republican-controlled General Assembly needs to:
Remember the destruction of the recent flooding and ensure that existing roads, bridges and dams are brought up to current safety standards.
Recognize that the current DOT commissioner-based governance structure has become inefficient and reform it to allow for improved oversight from the Secretary of Transportation over how and when existing roads are repaired and new projects approved.
Repair the roads.
Reform the tax code to broaden the tax base and lower rates throughout the different revenue sources with special attention paid to increasing our road and bridge infrastructure funding, increasing k-12 educational funding especially for parental choice initiatives and decreasing the tax burden carried by middle-class workers.
Refine our public k-12 education system by expanding parental access to specialized schools (charter, STEAM, magnet, etc.) and funding for student specific private-tutoring initiatives.
Certainly, other problems exist and legislation will be debated to solve those issues but infrastructure, education and tax reform are the big three statewide issues for 2016.
For Blue Ridge and Greer –
We do not need a roundabout at Lake Cunningham Fire Station on Highway 101. We need an improved intersection at Highway 101 and Milford Church Road.
We do not need the slot car-like rut that has formed on North Main Street in Greer (Highway 14). We need it repaired before somebody has a slot car-like wreck into the parking lot of Bonds Career Center.
We need a school building for our 400 Greer charter high school students who have been attending class in 24 semi-rotted portables for years. They should be congratulated for making use of our pothole-riven roads and winning a state cross-country championship last year. Imagine what they could do with a proper track and field.
We need for our county-based hospital system board (GHS) to show that they remember who gave GHS the foundation to grow like they have (and by foundation I mean the hard working citizens of Greenville County) before they are so quick to allocate the citizens’ hospital assets and resources to others outside our community. We need our county legislative delegation to exercise proper oversight of the GHS board.
We do not need Duke Energy placing 150-foot towers along Highway 11 or up around Lake Lanier to carry transmission lines for electricity bound for Asheville.
We need for 2016 to be the year of keeping it real. Real solutions for real problems.