Reforms needed to improve South Carolina

Change. Reform. Jobs. Transparency. Taxpayer protection. Since I ran for office almost two years ago and started serving in the South Carolina House of Representatives in January 2009, these are the areas most asked of state government by people in our district and around South Carolina. To represent you at the S.C. House, I have been working hard with other like minded representatives to make changes toward improving our state government and the quality of life for all of us in South Carolina. Some areas of change that I have been working on with other members are as follows:

Spending Caps and Tax Reform. The budget shortfall of the last two years tells us that we need meaningful tax reform and a cap on future spending growth. We are headed toward comprehensive tax reform with the Tax Realignment Commission report due in November. The bill to cap future spending growth in the general fund and to set aside a larger amount of reserves for a rainy day can still pass this session. Reforming our tax code and reigning in the growth of state government will help the private sector in the creation of more jobs for our workforce.

Government Restructuring. At least six restructuring reports since 1920 have recommended that South Carolina restructure state government to improve efficiency and accountability. We must move further along with restructuring our state government. Bills establishing a Department of Administration; letting voters decide whether certain constitutional officers should be elected or appointed by the Governor; and reorganizing the Employment Security Commission into a Department of Workforce should pass this session.

High School Dropouts. During the next 20 years, over 85 percent of the jobs will require at least a high school education. The growing number of people dependent on state entitlement programs for assistance can be attributed, in part, to the lack of adequate educational attainment. We must address our state’s high school dropout rate both in the short and long terms. One short-term way to address the problem is through the passage of a bill to require all students under the age of 18 either to have graduated or to be enrolled in school in good standing in order to have the privilege of possessing a driver’s license. Dropping out of school early without a hardship would mean giving up the privilege of driving. This bill has to get a subcommittee hearing in the second week of April to have a chance to pass this year. Please let your representatives and senators know that you want this bill to pass this year.

Roads and Bridges. The chairman of the S.C. Department of Transportation recently stated that we are not adequately addressing our road and bridge infrastructure needs. Anyone who travels our roads can tell this as well. The South Carolina Department of Transportation is responsible for the fourth largest state maintained road system in the nation. Yet, we have no recurring means of funding improvements for our roads and bridges. It is time for that to change. A bill can still pass this year for the maintenance and improvement of our state’s roads and bridges. If not, then addressing infrastructure needs must be top priority for 2011.

Zero Based Budgeting. We are facing an expected $980 million shortfall next year in the State’s General Fund. Since last year, I have joined other House members in advocating zero based budgeting principles to be used in the State Budget preparation process. Last week, the House voted to require such principles to be used starting with the 2011 budget. If the Senate concurs and the requirement becomes law, then taxpayers will benefit.

Transparency. We can restore some of the public’s trust in government by making roll call voting requirements permanent. Legislation doing this just passed the House and is now headed to the Senate.

Join me in calling on our representatives, our senators and our governor to make the above happen. In doing so, we can count 2010 as a year in which we made significant progress toward improving our state government despite the budget challenges that we face.

by Tom Young
Aiken Standard

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