Monday, June 28, 2010

Electorate rejects ‘business as usual’

Bluffton Today

I’m going to postpone my analysis of the recent session for aweek or so. Instead, what I’d like to do is offer a few comments on the primary elections.

First off, its pretty clear that business-as-usual is not what South Carolinians want. In general terms, we can say that the election punished incumbents that were seen, correctly or incorrectly, as not being serious enough about reducing the size and scope of government. While I will personally miss some of the members not returning to the House, I am elated that the electorate is seemingly moving in my philosophical direction, and bringing some new people to the Republican Party.

One of the few potential bright spots in our dismal economic circumstance is that “hard times” makes reform much easier. It exposes the weaknesses in our process that seem to generate policies that leave us vulnerable to the cyclical nature of the overall economy, especially with our poorly diversified regional economy.

As I reported last week, we have cut the budget almost 30 percent in the last two years from $7 billion to $5 billion. While this is aconsiderable achievement, it does not excuse your representative or your Beaufort County delegation from our commitment to repatriate more of the dollars we currently send to Columbia back to our neighborhoods to fund our schools, fix our roads, or protect our rivers. In truth, as the budgetary pie gets smaller, the competition for our fair share becomes increasingly fierce. The next couple of years are going to be a serious test for the delegation. I am confident that we will rise to the challenge.

Much of my confidence is due to the fact that my friend Andy Patrick is the presumptive winner of the House District 123 seat, representing Hilton Head Island. Andy conducted a brilliant, positive, idea-driven campaign and will be a strong member of the delegation. Senator Davis, Representative Erickson and I have already introduced Andy to many of the key people in the General Assembly, particularly folks in the Coastal Caucus.

Our part of the Lowcountry sends buckets of money to Columbia, but much of the distribution of those dollars is based on population, of which we are relatively short. The only way we can compete is to have a coherent, disciplined delegation that is able to bring focused pressure on the challenges we face. It is better to have a big hammer pounding on the system rather than have several little hammers chipping around the edges. With our current lineup, I think we have every reason to be confident that we will make progress on our key issue, which is getting better return on our tax dollars.

As always, I am indebted to you, the residents and voters of Beaufort County and District 118 for your constant input into the political process. Even with the runoff this last week, we still managed to field more than 400 constituent contacts. That kind of robust communication, especially combined with the helpful new addition to the delegation, certainly bodes well for our chances in the next session. Then again, that’s why we call it the House of Representatives.