Monday, August 9, 2010

Lawmakers assess financial reality

Bluffton Today

The state of South Carolina was fortunate to host the Southeast Legislative Conference in Charleston last week. We had a good showing of legislators from around the region trying to glean some new ideas on how to make dollars go further and make taxation more equitable and less onerous for both taxpayers and collectors.

Having been to a number of these events over the years, I was a little surprised at how much distress there is out there. I know we have had a couple of bad years in which we have essentially had to cut far beyond the fat in our budget. Apparently, some of our neighbors are in worse shape than we are. This is, of course, small comfort, as we look at some of our financial realities in the near term. I believe we are on the upswing economically, but there is a significant lag before that is reflected in ameaningful gain in revenue.

The conference was agreat time to network with our-of-state colleagues but also a good time to introduce presumptive Hilton Head legislator Andy Patrick to his potential new friends around the state. Andy is a quick study and I look forward to having him join our delegation. We have the personnel and the skill-sets to have the most effective delegation in the state. I’m really looking forward to getting back up to Columbia after the first of the year.

Tomorrow and Wednesday the Coalition for Jobs is hosting the Lowcountry Jobs Summit at the University of South Carolina- Hilton Head Gateway Campus. This summit is the beginning of a conversation on how the economy is impacting the residents of our area and how local governments can become more business friendly and encourage more job growth. This conversation will very likely have some similarities with weekly talks held between your state representative and Beaufort County Councilman Jerry Stewart.

While we in Beaufort County have been spared much of the absolute worst of the recession, we have been profoundly diminished nonetheless. Unlike some parts of our state, Beaufort County has powerful economic development tools that need to be deployed with new commitment. One of those tools is the Lowcountry Economic Network, a group of forward-looking business and government leaders charged with bringing good jobs and clean industry to the Lowcountry area.

As these things sometimes work out, my friend Jerry Stewart was recently elected the chairman of the board of the Lowcountry Economic Network. Great expectations are appropriate.

Sen. Tom Davis and I had the pleasure of sharing the dais for the monthly meeting of the Greater Island Committee over on Hilton Head Island. There was a lot of material to cover as the next session will be important for many reasons, not the least of which will be a new governor and several new faces in the General Assembly. The presentations were well received and I got to see and chat with a lot of old friends. And the Greater Island Committee membership knows a little more about the working of the state than they did before the meeting.

In the office, we are maintaining a high level of constituent contacts —almost 400 last week. I’m trying to balance the higher levels of contact with staff vacations. Consequently, for the next couple of weeks, please be patient if you call and don’t get an immediate response. I have the best staff around and need to take care of them.