Twenty Years Later: Time to Make Visionary Reforms a Reality

Twenty years ago in 1989, I graduated from Aiken High School. During that same year, former Governor Carroll Campbell and Lt. Governor Nick Theodore authored a bipartisan report prepared by the “Commission on the Future of South Carolina” intended to provide a comprehensive vision for making South Carolina better by the year 2000 and into the 21st Century. (The Report Summary can be found below!) Recommendations from that report included the following:

• Overhaul the state’s tax structure by examining all taxes on the state level and eliminating inequities and inefficiencies
• Strengthen the executive branch of government by giving the Governor more control of state agencies, boards, and commissions
• Appoint certain constitutional officers by the Governor rather than popular election of those officials
• Analyze the property tax burden in South Carolina and recommend levels of property tax revenues necessary to finance both public school and local government programs
• Consolidate school districts including establishing a minimum size to eliminate waste, duplication, and inefficiencies
• Combat the high school drop out rate with measures including prohibiting possession of a driver’s license until age 18 unless the licensee is enrolled in, or has completed, high school
• Fully fund higher education to produce a better educated workforce necessary to compete in the global economy
• Prevent out of state dumping of waste in South Carolina unless there exists strict and equitable reciprocity agreements with other states
• Improve the state’s roads and bridges through regional cooperation and more consistent, dedicated funding for such improvements
• Reduce the legislative session to a maximum of forty days
• Preserve our state’s natural resources in the face of unprecedented urban growth
• Reevaluate the utility of special purpose districts and enact legislation to permit consolidation of local governments

Do the above sound familiar? They should because twenty years later as we approach the beginning of the 2010 legislative session, the General Assembly is considering bills addressing the above and other meaningful reforms like a cap on spending growth; a larger rainy day fund; and an expansion of roll call voting to make our state government more efficient and accountable.

Why are many of these proposals so important? Twenty years ago, our state’s leadership identified these proposals among others to move the state forward. Today, we face many of the same problems as then, but the difficulties simply have compounded as most of these initiatives never happened. We need vision and leadership to address our state’s low per capita income which results largely from the number of educational system drop outs that in turn produces citizens with health, financial, and social problems requiring action by government at the expense of taxpayers. We need courage to remedy the state’s budget difficulties that necessitate the cuts being considered by our public education system. Our state’s tax structure deficiencies and our state’s dependency on sales tax revenue make us 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. We can no longer afford to follow this path.

Please join me in working to make these improvements become a reality. Call or email other Representatives and Senators and ask them to support these initiatives. We cannot wait any longer on enacting many of these reforms that are critically important to moving our state forward in these tough economic times. By doing so, we can finally accomplish passage of ideas first envisioned twenty years ago and count 2010 as a year in which we made great strides toward improving South Carolina despite the challenges that we face.

Click here for The Report Summary PDF.

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