Legislature faces challenging year

On Tuesday of this week, the South Carolina General Assembly will convene for the 2010 legislative session facing significant concerns about our state’s economy; tax structure; and budget. When it comes to these issues, all of us in South Carolina – families, small business and large business – have a lot at stake. To address these areas, we must work to make state government more efficient and accountable; to improve our state’s labor force; and to ensure that our state’s tax dollars are spent wisely with as low a burden on you and me as possible. Pending bills addressing these and other long-time concerns include the following:

– Overhaul the state’s tax structure by examining all taxes on the state level and eliminating inequities and inefficiencies. The Report of the Tax Realignment Commission is due in March

– 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

– Reform the State’s Employment Security Commission and how South Carolina funds the State’s unemployment trust fund

– Consolidate school districts including establishing a minimum size to eliminate waste, duplication and inefficiencies

– Combat the high school dropout 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

– Enact a cap on state spending growth

– Create a larger rainy day fund for down budget years

– Expand roll call voting requirements to increase transparency

– 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 40 days

– Raise the tobacco tax for the first time in over 30 years

– Preserve our state’s natural resources in the face of urban growth

– Prevent out-of-state dumping of waste in South Carolina unless there exists strict and equitable reciprocity agreements with other states

– Strengthen the executive branch of government by giving the governor more control of the duties now held by the State Budget and Control Board

– Appoint certain constitutional officers by the governor rather than popular election of those officials

– Move toward a constitutional convention to reform our State’s constitution for the 21st Century

Coupled with the above, we need vision and leadership to focus on our state’s low per capita income which results largely from the number of educational system dropouts 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. South Carolina’s future – both in the short and the long terms – depends on the state’s leadership working to address all of these areas. There is no better time to start than now.

Please join me in working to make these improvements become a reality. Call or e-mail other representatives and senators and ask them to support these initiatives. Check my website at www.reptomyoung.com for weekly legislative updates. By enacting many of these reforms, we can count 2010 as a year in which we made great strides toward improving South Carolina despite the challenges that we face.

Aiken Standard

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