A Little Conservative Theology with that Gas Tax Increase, Please

Now that the House has passed the infrastructure bill, everybody knows what happens next –  a few conservative Senators will try to kill it dead. As a political conservative myself who supported the bill though I was on approved leave at the time of the vote, I thought a short review of conservative doctrine might be in order. It’s not exactly the Apostles Creed (or even Apollo Creed who reminded Rocky Balboa, while punching him in the head during a training bout, that there is no tomorrow – sage advice to remember about the condition of our roads) but it draws a line between conservative and reckless thought.

So, stand up South Carolina conservative and say what you believe.

I believe –

  • In individual liberty, individual responsibility and limited government.
  • Individual liberty and individual responsibility derive authority from natural law before which humans stand free, independent and equal.
  • Divine Providence through natural law requires individuals to act responsibly as the first duty of those who are granted the gift of individual liberty.
  • Individuals enter into a social contract with each other to protect liberty, promote responsibility and provide for the basic common good.
  • The social contract forms the foundation for the rule of law.
  • Individual liberty and the rule of law are the first principles of the Magna Charta that formally established the basic rights of Englishmen.
  • The basic rights of the Magna Charta became an integral part of English Common Law.
  • English Common Law was inherent to the understanding of liberty by the first English colonists who settled Charles Towne Landing and forms the basis of South Carolina’s constitution and code of laws today.
  • The expansion of individual religious liberties written in John Locke’s Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina were further refined in the Declaration of Independence and made perfect in the United States Constitution as adopted by South Carolina as one of the thirteen original colonies.
  • The social contract operates best within a representative form of government.
  • Government with power to tax or deny individual liberty should be as strictly limited as practicable.
  • Individual liberty erodes with each penny taxed by the government.
  • The social contract requires limited taxes to provide for the basic common good that cannot be provided through acts of individual responsibility.
  • The General Assembly as the formal representation of the social contract for the citizens of South Carolina has a duty to provide a limited and efficient government.
  • The General Assembly created the SCDOT to provide a statewide road infrastructure for the common good of our citizens.

Many conservative Senators I know will agree with the above litany until they read the word “efficient” in the next to the last statement. Some will balk at that one though you may not see it. They would rather waste tax money through inefficiency than save tax money by properly funding a basic function of government.

Consider the Senators who oppose the roads bill. They would rather add $380 million per year to deferred maintenance than reform and properly fund the road system that was created for the common good. They support future waste that will cost almost as much as the current tax increase. Not only do they purposefully support the continued operation of an inefficient governmental agency – inefficient in that SCDOT does not have the resources to maintain our road system – they fail to act as fiduciaries representing their constituents interests or safety.

Don’t be fooled. These are not conservatives in the traditional mold. They are not of the conservative strand that weaves its way from Bill Buckley back to Edmund Burke and his belief, learned from watching the bloody guillotine of the French Revolution, that conservative reforms are best carried out systematically and gradually.

They are of the Guy Fawkes strand who aren’t conservatives at all but wannabe anarchists who would rather blow up something than fix it. I don’t know about you but I think we have enough holes already . . . holes in roads . . . holes in heads . . .

 

State House Report Week 8 – Roads, Retirement Reform & Real ID

This 8th week of legislative session was jam-packed with sweeping solutions to three major problems facing our state. In the House, we passed a bill to fix our dangerous and crumbling roads, give solvency to the state retirement system, and allow for compliance with federal ID card standards.

For years, the General Assembly has addressed our infrastructure needs in a piecemeal fashion, not actually focusing on long-term infrastructure issues that have created major safety concerns and eroded economic development opportunities. Last Session, the House led the way by passing a bill containing a long-term approach to fixing our roads and bridges. Due to political pressure, the Senate was unable to pass a long-term funding plan. This week, the House has again passed a sustainable and reliable plan that not only dramatically reforms the South Carolina Department of Transportation, but first focuses on curbing our highest-in-the-nation motorist fatality rate by repairing our most deadly roadways in rural areas. The bill is now in the Senate where I expect it will be amended in some manner and sent back for our further consideration.

Our roads are crumbling, but it’s also no secret our state retirement system is in need of immediate attention, too. On Tuesday, my House colleagues and I passed a bipartisan measure to cap the rate paid by employees in the state retirement system, adjust the rate paid into the system by both employer and employee, and to inject sufficient funding into the current system to bring solvency to the struggling benefit plan. The market crash and recession of 2008 along with poor management contributed to the deficiencies we face today. Doing nothing and thereby not honoring promises made to employees is not an option. I believe it’s very important to ensure our teachers, first responders, and public employees have a sound foundation for retirement. The Senate amended and passed our House proposal and I will have another update as we progress further.

Finally, the House also gave bipartisan support to a piece of legislation that would bring our state-issued ID cards (such as a driver’s license) into compliance with federally mandated security standards. You may have seen signs posted in the airport giving ample warning that later this year the TSA will no longer accept the current South Carolina driver’s license as an acceptable form of identification for boarding a commercial aircraft. This bill makes sure that

never happens and allows you and your family to travel without any issues. I also heard from some, who for valid personal reasons, did not wish to comply with the federal security minimums. This bill also included an opt-out clause which would allow those residents to continue without any penalty and without conforming to the REAL ID federal standards.

It is an honor and a privilege to serve you in Columbia. If you need help navigating state government, or have any thoughts or concerns about what we are doing, please do not hesitate to contact me at Tommy@tommystringer.com.

State House Report Week 7 – Budget, Education Improvements & Fighting the Opioid Epidemic

The South Carolina House of Representatives had a busy week producing an initial state budget, moving again on education improvements, and initiating a push to fight the opioid epidemic.

For months, the House Ways and Means Committee has been gathering operating budget requests from state agencies to produce a final budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1st. Each year, House budget writers focus on funding the core functions of government and eliminating waste and duplication. Proposing and passing a balanced budget is one the most important things we do annually; these are your tax dollars and I take this role very seriously.

This year’s budget specifically addresses the needs of poor rural school districts in 39 counties which have struggled in the past as a result of declining revenue streams among many other challenges. It is incumbent upon our state to provide each child the same opportunities in education regardless of their geographic location; the South Carolina Supreme Court said as much in their 2014 ruling which is the impetus for the actions we are taking today. In this initial funding proposal, $100 million has been dedicated toward repairing, maintaining, and in some cases upgrading the environments in which our students learn. I’ll have more information on the state budget in the coming weeks.

The House also gave key support to another important education-related matter – a bill removing the State Superintendent of Education from the list of partisan elected constitutional officers, instead making it a cabinet agency under direct supervision of the governor. The measure passed by more than 2/3 and upon third reading will be sent to the Senate for consideration.

Finally, legislation was introduced this week by several House members aimed at addressing the prescription opioid epidemic in our state. You may have even seen national news reports dedicated to raising awareness of the growing problem. South Carolina is not immune. In 2013, the Inspector General released a report detailing problematic trends in our state related to drug overdoses. In 2014, a task force was assembled to develop a multi-pronged approach aimed at curbing the current crisis while also focusing on future preventative measures. Like many problems, this epidemic will not be fixed through legislation alone, but the task force did make

several legislative recommendations. These steps are only the beginning and I will provide updates as progress is made.

It is an honor and a privilege to serve you in Columbia. If you need help navigating state government, or have any thoughts or concerns about what we are doing, please do not hesitate to contact me at Tommy@tommystringer.com