October 2009 Update for Midland Valley Monthly Paper

Since my last column in this paper last month, a lot has happened in our district during the month of September. The purpose of this column is to keep you informed about what is going on at your State House and around our district.

As to the Avondale Water System, Rep. Roland Smith, Senator Massey and I continue to be real busy on three fronts. First, after many meetings and long hours of negotiation, Valley Public Service Authority’s Board approved an agreement to take over the Avondale Water System from Avondale. Several issues need to be worked out involving both the water and the sewer but we are getting closer to seeing this transfer become a reality. Upgrading the water and sewer infrastructure is vital to improving the quality of life in this part of Aiken County. Avondale, Aiken County, and VPSA’s board, staff, engineers, and attorneys must work together to meet the deadlines for both the transfer agreement and the federal monies that are available for improvements.

Second, here is the latest on the July bills and the water rate hike. As you may know, on August 24, the Circuit Court issued a Temporary Injunction stating that Avondale cannot charge the new rate for service before August 1 due to a lack of notice to the customers after the PSC approved the new rate schedule on June 18. Avondale appealed that decision to the South Carolina Supreme Court. That appeal is still pending.

Third, as to the rate hike, the PSC set a public hearing on the rate hike for September 30 in Graniteville and for October 6 in Columbia. The Graniteville hearing was well attended and we are hoping for the best as to the PSC amending the earlier approved rate hike. We hope that the rate will be adjusted so that any necessary rate hike under Avondale’s ownership will be phased in over a period of time and that Avondale will be required to make improvements to the system in order to justify increases in the rate during the phase in period. Based on the citizen testimony, there is no question that the citizens have received poor water quality from Avondale and are experiencing “rate shock” due to the rate increase.

Recently, while researching issues for next legislative session, I discovered a 1989 report prepared by the “Commission on the Future of South Carolina”, under the leadership of former Governor Carroll Campbell and Lt. Governor Nick Theodore, 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 at my website: www.reptomyoung.com.) 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. 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. I plan to work hard on these issues and others to improve South Carolina.

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 (649-0000 or 215-3631); email (TomYoung@schouse.org); regular mail (P.O. Box 651, Aiken, SC 29802); or just pull me aside when you see me.

If you would like for me to speak to your church or other civic group about pending legislation or other concerns to you, please let me know. Please see my website – www.reptomyoung.com – for 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.

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