Monday, August 1, 2011

From the House

Bluffton Today

The seemingly endless session is now officially at an end. It’s time for those of us in leadership to begin our extracurricular activities on your behalf. It has already been a busy off-season, with much more on the agenda.
With the new congressional district now centered in the Myrtle Beach/Horry County area, we are reunited with our coastal compatriots in a district extending from Charleston to Beaufort County. This will offer us a much greater congruency with our colleagues from the Coastal Caucus. In the last six or eight years, the resurgent Coastal Caucus, led mostly by your delegation, has become a potent force in the General Assembly. One of our premier agenda items is the preservation and continuing support for the Waddell Mariculture Center in Greater Bluffton. In this, we can expect congressional attention from my friend, Tim Scott, congressman from Charleston and no stranger to Beaufort County.
Another of my extracurricular activities that will also have a direct bearing on clean water issues is the ongoing work of the Blue Ribbon Committee on Shoreline Management, chaired by my neighbor and friend Wes Jones. Along with my friends Tom Peeples, former Mayor of Hilton Head Island, and Joe Riley, Mayor of Charleston, we continue meeting to hash out issues that become ever more pressing as an increasing number of folks move to our area and the threat of rising sea levels becomes more apparent. We are attempting to create good public policy that also respects the rights of private property owners. It’s a tall order but I am constantly impressed by the amount of experience and the degree of mental horsepower represented on this committee.
Whatever the outcome of the current debt ceiling negotiations in Washington, two things are becoming clearer relative to our situation in South Carolina. Firstly, by contrast, our rancorous and protracted state budget process looks like the work of a conclave of serene economic philosophers next to the federal trainwreck. Secondly, the level of uncertainty attendant to both public and private finances is elevated regardless of the outcome. If this spectacle results in even a partial default, the uncertainty is increased exponentially.
Whatever the level of uncertainty, the work we are doing on both the Caucus Tax Committee and the Tax Realignment Commission is given added urgency. After three years of double-digit percentage reductions to our state budget, we are potentially looking at dramatic federal changes, whether to the Medicaid 3 to 1 match, highway dollars, or even to things we cannot at this point anticipate. It’s an interesting time.
However much we are confronted with uncertainty over future finances, there is one thing that is beyond party and beyond policy. That is the return of local hero Jeff Fulghum. For the last three weeks, a good number of constituent calls and emails to my office have been about Jeff. How is he doing? What are his plans? Is there going to be a public event for him?
This Thursday at 7pm, after the Farmer’s Market, Jeff will be at Vineyard 55 across from Miss Babbie’s Store on Calhoun St. We need to make absolutely certain this young man understands the depth of this community’s gratitude for his service and his sacrifice for our country.