Reps. give overview of legislative session

The S.C. General Assembly is going to have to find a way to provide reform measures for the state’s retirement system, said S.C. Rep. Tom Young, R-Aiken.

He and S.C. Rep. Bill Taylor, R-Aiken, discussed the 2012 legislative session, which starts today, at an Aiken Rotary Club meeting on Monday.

A study by Clemson University several years ago projected that the unfunded mandate for the retirement system would be $6.2 billion by 2010. Actually, it’s now closer to $17 billion, Young said, and such shortfalls are occurring in 46 states. In the fairly recent past, there were 3.36 state employees working for every retiree. Now the number is 1.71 employees.

“People are living longer, and the system wasn’t designed for that,” Young said. “That’s one of the reasons so much is unfunded.”

Using the telephone greeting imposed on state employees by Gov. Nikki Haley, Taylor said, “It is a great day in South Carolina.” He noted that the economic forecast is not nearly as pessimistic as it was a year ago. Revenue could increase in 2012 by $950 million to $1.3 billion, he said.

“If the U.S. economy rebounds somewhat, South Carolina is in a position to take advantage of that,” Taylor said. “Bridgestone (expansion) was one of the biggest buzzes in 2011, and manufacturing is coming back in large amounts.”

During the last session, the House approved an ambitious conservative agenda. Many didn’t make it through the Senate, but those that did were important, said Taylor. They include government transparency, point-of-sale changes to bring more fairness to property taxes and voter ID measures.

South Carolina has provided $1.3 billion toward the prospective Yucca Mountain site for radioactive waste disposal, including spent fuel at the Savannah River Site. However, that project has been shelved, at least for now. The state’s legislative delegation has asked President Barack Obama and Secretary of Energy Steven Chu about returning those funds to ratepayers, Young said.

“If you have paid utility bills for many years, a portion of that money has gone to develop the Yucca Mountain site,” he said. “We think the federal government should return that money if it’s not going to be used as originally intended.”

People know that Democrats oppose Yucca Mountain, “but the Republican candidates have not responded to this question, either,” Taylor said.

Courtesy of the Aiken Standard

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