Streamlining Government: SC is known as the “Legislative State.”
The problem with that is that the governor and the legislature should be equal in power. In SC, because of our antiquated, 1890s’ structure of government, it isn’t that way. Therefore, it is difficult for the governors to carry the policies of their administrations.
The governor is accountable to all the voters and the executive branch should set the direction for the education, roads, commerce, etc. for the state. Unfortunately, SC has the nation’s weakest executive branch and that is a major reason that we statistically lag most all other states in education and quality of life matters.
We have recently seen conservative governors such as NJ’s Chris Christie come in and quickly begin to turn around their state’s fortunes. SC Gov. Nikki Haley could begin to do the same, but her office doesn’t have the tools. Most of them are held by the General Assembly. It is more effective to have one person in charge with checks and balances than 170. To make our state competitive and grant our governor the powers she needs we must do the following:
- Allow the governor to appoint most constitutional officers including the Superintendent of Education.
- Give the governor the ability to hire and fire agency directors
- Merge agencies that have like missions
- Eliminate the Budget and Control Board
Shorten Legislative Session: The SC General Assembly meets for longer than any other in the southeast. From January to June they are simply in Columbia too long. I believe the legislature should come in, get its work done and leave. This should take no longer than three months and for years I advocated for this change. Now, with funds tighter than ever, is the time to shorten the session.
Advocate for USC Lancaster: USCL and Winthrop are two of the most poorly funded universities in the state. The reason is SC’s convoluted system for funding higher education rewards universities that educate fewer students and penalizes those that educate more. USCL educates twice as many students as it did ten years ago, including students from York County, and received less money from the state to do so.
Just as Winthrop has been a catalyst for the growth of Rock Hill, so can USCL increase prosperity in Lancaster. As a current member of the USC Board of Trustees, I am working with the USC administration to make USCL a feeder school for the Columbia campus. With each USC student placed at USCL for their initial two years, Lancaster can se up to a $10,000 per year economic impact. This can transform Lancaster into a college town much like Rock Hill or Spartanburg.
The success of USCL must be made known to all in Columbia and it should be held up as an example of the utmost efficiency in higher ed, not targeted for closure or conversion to a community college.
Jobs and Development: The roll of elected officials is not to “create” jobs. We have already witnessed the fallacy of attempting to do this through the federal stimulus bills. Instead, leaders should provide the right conditions: low taxes, quality education for workers, good roads and other infrastructure that is needed. Legislators should have good relations both with local officials, the governor and the Department of Commerce. I’ve had and continue to have those relationships.
From the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s I worked with local officials to place the infrastructure in Indian Land and then saw it grow into one of the most economically successful areas in SC. I also was involved in final negotiations that brought Sun City to Lancaster County. This is perhaps the most successful economic development in this area since Spring Mills.
Since I work in the building supply business, I, like at lot of others in our area, have felt the effects of the current economic downturn acutely. No one wants to see prosperity return to our region more so than I. I am fully committed to rekindling my contacts across Lancaster and York as well as in Columbia in to ensure that our region gets serious consideration for every prospective business considering SC.
K-12 Education: SC has made gains in K-12 education in recent years, but we still have significant hurdles to clear for our students to be able to complete in the global job market. I believe that a student’s success is dependent on several factors: their commitment, their parents’ commitment, and teachers who can interest them in the subject matter. If any of these things are lacking, then students will likely not reach their potential.
The government’s responsibility is mostly confined to what our education system can do for students during the 180 days a year it has them in school. To this end, I have supported merit pay for teachers, higher pay for teachers’ education advancement, full day kindergarten, and the 1998 state bond bill which was used to construct many of the new schools in York and Lancaster counties.
One of my primary interests has been the teaching of financial literacy. As a result of a bill I passed, all students are now taught a two-week course on this subject as a part of the economics class requirement in high school. After all, why get an education to get a job to earn money if one is not trained in how to manage money?
Currently, I understand that Act 388 has not worked out as was expected. I do not agree with the legislature’s decision not to have this act included in the tax issues studied by the TRAC Commission. Clearly, our tax system in SC is unbalanced and full of holes and exemptions. I do not favor and will not support a general tax increase. However, I believe that the General Assembly has a responsibility to rebalance the tax code for the modern age in which we live.
Constituent Service: Most newly elected legislators quickly realize that constituent service is at least half of the job. From my previous sixteen years in the Senate I realize that the senator represents the last, best hope for many people to have their problems addressed. To provide effective constituent service takes patience and good listening skills, but one must also know to whom in the government to reach out for each problem. It takes several years of experience to learn, but I already have the rolodex and can effectively assist the people of the district from day one.