Monday, December 8, 2008

Beaufort County Now Has 'A Seat at the Table'

By any measure, the Bluffton Christmas Parade was a resounding success. The after-parade event was also a fitting completion to a great day. It was a pleasure to see all the families out and about, enjoying the festivities. Adding to the celebration in the Promenade, my neighbor Patty, at Pottery in Paradise, did more than her share to put together fun activities for the kids of all ages. She has become, in a relatively short time, a true Bluffton asset.

The Organizational Session of the General Assembly last week produced some good news and some bad news. The bad news is that we are officially in recession. This is from the state economist, Dr. Gillespie. While this may not be a startling revelation to most of us, especially in the business community, Dr. Gillespie also shared that he had never seen economic indicators quite so vivid as we now have. Apparently, we entered the recession around December of 2007, but were spared the most serious symptoms until fairly recently, when the bottom dropped out of employment, as well as tax revenues.

The economic forecasting business is not a precise science, but there are some relatively good things working in our favor. Interest rates o­n mortgages have dropped below 5.5 percent and could go lower if the feds use some of the tools they are currently considering. Also, the price of oil has moderated considerably, with implications for home heating over the winter and for transportation costs. The good Dr. pointed out that recessions, especially bad o­nes, have a tendency to reverse rather dramatically as they come to an end. As to when that time might arrive, he was not willing to say.

In the meantime, I want to encourage you to spend your dollars, to the extent possible, in the local economy. Buy from your neighbors so they can afford to return the favor. This thing will end sooner or later, and we will be glad we supported o­ne another during the down times.

The good news I promised is this: your representative has been appointed to Ways and Means Committee. This doesn’t mean that the dump trucks will be backing up to unload tons of cash in Beaufort County anytime soon. What it does mean is that your issues and your concerns are being articulated closer to the center of influence in Columbia. We have a seat at the table. At the very least, this means that our status as a donor county will be diminished somewhat. More of our tax dollars will come home to Beaufort County.

While I am the senior member of our delegation, I am o­nly beginning my seventh year in the legislature. This tenure is relatively brief in the House and usually would not merit a Ways and Means appointment. Because our delegation does not have much seniority, I have had to work, out of necessity, with other legislators to accomplish what we have done. I credit that cooperative spirit, as well as a modest talent in creating professional and personal relationships with colleagues, for this appointment.

Next week, a little more about my appointment and a lot more about other members of our delegation, as far as committee appointments are concerned. You will be pleased at how the delegation is shaping up. We have some good people who are assuming positions, balanced across the spectrum of committees, with real potential to do great things for the home folks.