Monday, November 29, 2010

Delegation to meet Tuesday on Hilton Head

Bluffton Today

It was a shortened week in the office, but amazingly enough we are still right at record level of constituent contacts. Kathy and I came in on Friday to try and catch up but if we don’t get back to you immediately, please cut us some holiday slack.

Also, I want to remind you of the Legislative Delegation meeting at 10 a.m. Tuesday in the council chambers of Hilton Head Island Town Hall. We had a little mix up in last week’s column that directed you to the Chamber of Commerce Complex. Although the Chambers of Commerce of both Hilton Head Island and Beaufort will certainly be in attendance, the meeting will be at Town Hall. This is part of our policy of rotating the delegation meetings around the district so that attendees will not always be geographically inconvenienced. It should be a good meeting and I hope to see a number of you there.

We have had more than a few deep talks in the past week regarding the budget, especially after Dr. Gillespie’s sobering presentation to the Ways and Means Committee on behalf of the Budget and Control Board. It’s going to be another tough year, essentially as many of the downward trends in revenue and employment, while currently stabilizing, are still below what we require for either a balanced budget or full employment.

As far as revenue is concerned, we are seeing the slightest upturn in the numbers, although I would not call it a trend just yet. Unlike the federal budget, we don’t get to run a deficit and simply print more money. There is, however, a certain elasticity in our budget process that allows us to run a sort of de facto deficit by utilizing a number of trust funds and rainy day accounts to keep funding core functions of the state. Unfortunately, we have pretty much used up that elasticity and need to start making whole those trust funds and accounts. Consequently, even after we start to show real revenue growth, we will still likely be cutting areas of the budget.

The job situation is more complex. The first of this year we stopped losing jobs, but have not established much momentum in gaining new jobs. In June of 2007, we peaked at 1,970,000 jobs, and bottomed in January 2010 at around 1,783,000 jobs, a loss of around 187,000 jobs. That’s nearly 1 in 10 jobs lost in a state with higher-than-average unemployment in the best of times.

I guess this takes us back to my near obsession with jobs. You hear it from me over and over. Sound education — rational tax and regulatory policy — and transportation, utility and information infrastructure are all required to create and support good jobs, recession or no recession. That’s how I see our primary function in Columbia.

The holiday, by all accounts from around the community, was superb. Grown children and grandchildren came for family Thanksgiving. Turkeys with Bluffton oyster dressing were prepared and gratefully eaten, often to excess. Naps were taken and football was watched. These ceremonies were all undertaken with gratitude. My personal thanksgiving, however, is today, the Nov. 29. This is the day, 24 years ago; that my lovely Mary and I began our married life together. Inexplicably, each year is better than the last.