Busy times at the State House

Since my last column three weeks ago, a lot has been happening at the South Carolina House of Representatives. The purpose of this column is to keep you informed about what is going at your State House.

First, in addition to the bills described in my last column that I am sponsoring or cosponsoring, I have sponsored or cosponsored additional bills, including legislation to provide a long-term care insurance premium state tax deduction; to eliminate the Employment Security Commission and put that agency under a new department reporting directly to the Governor, to require photo identification when voting in an election and to allow our school district to have more flexibility in how it allocates its funding resources.

Second, some bills are now coming out of committees and reaching the House floor. In the past two weeks, we have debated several bills, including a bill regulating payday lenders and the school district funding flexibility bill. (For more details on both of these, please see my weekly updates at www.reptomyoung.com.) Next week, we will debate bills, including the bill requiring photo identification as a requirement to vote and a bill that will require a woman seeking an abortion to wait 24 hours after getting an ultrasound test conducted by her physician before having the procedure performed. The state budget is expected to come to the House floor the week of March 9.

Third, I am working with other members of our legislative delegation to monitor the federal economic stimulus package in an effort to help Aiken County get its fair share of anticipated funding. This week, I attended two meetings at the State Department of Transportation from which Aiken County should receive $5.5 million for road resurfacing and $2.9 million for new road construction.

Fourth, as to public education, everyone in our community is aware of the cuts that our school district is being forced to make because of the substantial budget reductions. The House budget writers are working hard to restore as much money to education as possible and I am involved in daily discussions with those House members to ensure that education programs – both K-12 and higher education – are a top funding priority.

The state budget difficulties that necessitate the cuts being considered by our public education system underscore deficiencies in our state’s tax structure. Because our state is so dependent on sales tax revenue, our state’s annual budget appropriations are especially vulnerable to downturns in the economy such as we are experiencing in the current recession. When this happens, we have no choice but to make deep cuts which result in critical economic foundations such as education, workforce quality, infrastructure and research and development being substantially underfunded. Additionally, we have $2.7 billion in annual state tax exemptions including many that have existed since the early 1950s. Certainly, many of these exemptions make no sense to exist in 2009. For these reasons, I support a meaningful and thoughtful, comprehensive overhaul of our state’s tax structure, and I am cosponsoring a bill in the House which is intended to do that.

My next town meeting for interested citizens to attend is this coming Monday, Feb. 23 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at Leavelle McCampbell Middle School in Graniteville. Sen. Shane Massey will participate in this town meeting with me. I am planning other town meetings in March and April located in other parts of the district. These will be publicized in the paper and on the web.

Even if you cannot attend a town meeting, please know that I am always available to you and your family should you ever need assistance. I will do my best to listen to you, to help with your constituent concerns and to be responsive to your requests. I can be reached by telephone at 649-0000, e-mail at TomYoung@schouse.org, regular mail at P.O. Box 651, Aiken, SC 29802 or just pull me aside when you see me. Recently, I have talked to with many of you about lots of issues including the Graniteville/Vaucluse water system, education funding, conservation, energy needs and road and drainage concerns. Your opinions and recommendations are very helpful to me.

Finally, please see my website, www.reptomyoung.com, for weekly updates about what is going on at the State House and in our district.

Thank you for the privilege and the opportunity to represent you. I am determined to work on your behalf to make our State government more efficient, effective and accountable.

By Rep Tom Young
Aiken Standard

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