Monday, February 8, 2010

Increased need, decreasing money adds up to nothing but worry

Bluffton Today

It was another tough week for the budget as South Carolina tries to recover.

The Board of Economic Advisors (BEA) has forecast another quarter of stagnation, which means the cuts we originally made and the latest cuts we are so carefully trying to scalpel in are not going to balance the ledger. We now must look at essential agencies of the state and the invaluable people that make them function, and find ways for these folks to carry on with less funding. On paper, it looks fairly simple. In reality, each of these decisions has consequences in the lives of real people, many of whom don’t have alot of options left.

One of the local service providers I am trying to help weather the storm is Hope Haven, the rape crisis center in Beaufort County. I have been on the phone with my friend, Jeannie Owens, volunteer coordinator at Hope Haven, as well as board member Kim Statler.

They are seeing a huge increase in their directly provided services and are exploring every avenue to remain fully operational. You may not know much about Hope Haven, but sometimes they provide the only personal contact arape victim has as they navigate the whole medical and legal process following the assault. You can be sure I will go to the mat for these good people.

Part of the downward spiral we are confronting is that social service providers are being cut right at the moment they are seeing a dramatically increased need. Sustained high unemployment leads to more problems with alcohol and drug abuse, which has behavioral consequences across the board. One of those behavioral consequences is violence against women, including rape. Witness the huge jump in calls to Hope Haven.

This illustrates one of the reasons I am so determined to attract and protect jobs in our area. This is not about ideology or any abstract notion of economics. It is based on the hard fact that adecent level of employment makes for stronger families, stronger neighborhoods and fewer calls to law enforcement and to frontline social service providers.

In many ways, we in Beaufort County are fortunate in that our economy has astrong tourism component. While the number and duration of visits to Beaufort County is down, and our building trades are really hurting, there are many communities in our region that are simply flat-lining.

Finally, we got 460-plus calls and emails last week, mostly on the Sembler matter. Interestingly, only two of those calls had to do with my “butt kickin’” by the editorial board of “the other paper.”

Of the two, one was a lady from Hilton Head wanting incentives for the mall in her neighborhood, and the other was from a retired legislator offering to write an op-ed protesting the fairness of the editorial. I passed on both.

For more information on my position, go to my Web site,, and read my last few columns.