Update –December 1 to December 14, 2010

The House of Representatives has adjourned for the 2010 session. I hope that you find this update helpful and informative:

SCDOT Commissioners in Aiken: The S.C. Department of Transportation Commissioners held their monthly meeting on Thursday, December 2 in Aiken City Council Chambers. Our local legislative delegation with both County and City officials invited the Commissioners to come to Aiken County. The meeting went well. Last week, I spoke with each of the Commissioners who attended, and they were all very complimentary of how well prepared both the City and County were in their presentations and how well the City and County work together on road projects.

TRAC Commission Recommendations: The report from the Tax Realignment Commission was released last week. The report recommends many changes including the following:

* Eliminate or amend more than 60 of the state’s 80 sales and use tax exemptions, caps, and discounts;

* Reduce the statewide sales tax rate from 6% to 5% and possibly 4%;

* Raise the tax on fuel from 16 cents a gallon to 22.25 cents a gallon;

* Reduce the exclusion of tax liability on capital gains income from 44% to 20%;

* Equalize taxes paid by primary residents and owners of second homes;

* Require all tax filers pay a fee of $50 if there is no state income tax liability since 41% of all tax filers in the state pay no state income taxes;

* Reduce the top 7% tax bracket for most filers down to 6%;

* Reduce number of standard deductions and personal exemptions;

* Does not recommend instituting the Fair Tax.

The link to the full report is here. The link to the Executive Summary is here. You may access material that the Commission considered in its seventeen (17) meetings by going to the “Citizens’ Interest” page at www.scstatehouse.gov.

Comments on TRAC: I am studying the lengthy TRAC Report. Previously, I stated that a flaw in the TRAC process was that there was not a simultaneous review of spending on the state level. (The Legislative Audit Council did a spending review in 1992. I recently obtained a copy of that report and I am reviewing it too.) Nevertheless, the materials and recommendations in the TRAC report should be considered as we look at tax reform and where we want South Carolina to be 3, 5, 10, and 20 years from now. I do not believe that any effort to raise certain taxes will pass the General Assembly UNLESS there are simultaneous spending reductions and reductions in other taxes so that raising a particular tax is “revenue neutral.” Governor-elect Haley is expected to introduce a tax reform plan some time early next year. If you read the TRAC materials in detail, please let me know your thoughts.

Prefiling of Bills for Next Legislative Session: Last week, several bills were prefiled for the upcoming session at the S.C. House. I am cosponsor of the roll call voting bill. Additionally, I prefiled sixteen (16) bills as primary sponsor including bills that will do the following:

* Shorten the legislative session;

* Allow the appointment by the Governor of the State Treasurer; Secretary of State; Superintendent of Education; Comptroller General; Agricultural Commissioner; and Adjutant General;

* Require the Governor and Lt. Governor to run together as a ticket;

* Reduce the number of school districts statewide by setting a mandatory minimum number of students that a district must have to receive state funds;

* Reduce the high school drop out rate by requiring school attendance or early graduation as a condition to drive a motor vehicle before the age of 18;

* Impose mandatory jail time for criminal solicitation of a minor child;

* Create a state income tax deduction for a portion of long term care insurance premiums as an incentive to purchase long term care insurance.

Prefiling of Bills – Part II: Other bills may be prefiled today (December 14). I will prefile another bill today that will require state agencies to report any “carry forward” “other funds” appropriations to the General Assembly by a certain date so that the amount of and purpose for “carry forward” funds are known to lawmakers and the public. I also am prefiling a bill today that will mandate zero base budgeting to be used in the state budget process. More legislation may be filed after the General Assembly returns on January 11, 2011. I will provide a complete list of all prefiled bills in the next weekly update.

MTU Detroit Diesel Grand Opening: MTU Detroit Diesel held its grand opening for his new manufacturing plant in Aiken County on December 1. The plant specializes in the manufacture of diesel engines and systems for off-highway use. Currently, eighty (80) people are working at the plant and the plant is expected to employ 250 people within 4 years. We are fortunate to have them come to Aiken with their new plant.

Aiken County School District: On November 30, 2010, the School District presented a presentation entitled “Budget 101” regarding the District’s budget. A copy can be seen by clicking here.

Tours at SRS: There will be 30 tours of the Savannah River Site (SRS) in 2011 which are open to the public. For more information on the tours, please click here.

Planning for the 2011 Legislative Session: The 2011 legislative session will convene on the second Tuesday in January. I am seeking input from constituents on the critical issues facing our state and area including tax reform; spending reform; K-12 education; the costs of higher education; health care; immigration; economic development; job growth; and the unfunded liabilities in our state’s retirement system. Your input is welcome on any issue important to you. Please email me back or contact me by phone or in person at your convenience.

Aiken County Legislative Delegation: The next meeting is on Monday, January 10, 2011 at 5:00 p.m. at the Aiken County Council Chambers.

Celebrate Aiken Birthday Event: Aiken’s 175th birthday celebration will be this Saturday, December 18 from 1 to 4:00 p.m. at the USC Aiken Convocation Center. The event is open to the public.

Email Updates: Many people in District 81 are receiving this email update. However, there are many others who do not receive them because I do not know their email addresses. If you know of people who do not receive my updates but they would like to, please email their names and email addresses to me.

Road Issues: If you see a road problem, you can call the SCDOT at 641-7665 or Aiken County at 642-1532 to report the problem. If you do not get a prompt response, please let me know at TomYoung@schouse.gov or call me. In general terms, most paved roads in the County are maintained by SCDOT and are identified on the road- sign poles by a small black and white sign listing the road number, such as S-2-1669. On the other hand, nearly all unpaved roads in the County are maintained by the County.

Thank you for the opportunity to represent you. Please let me know if I can help you in any way or if you have questions about these or other issues. Your feedback is meaningful and appreciated.

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