Thursday, January 26, 2012

From the House

Bluffton Today

The second week of session was productive, in my view, less for what was done than what was said. With a little more income flowing into the state coffers, we are now having the conversations, sometimes debates, about what needs to happen. After three years of often excruciating agency cuts, do we try and return a modicum of functionality to the fiscal skeletons of Health and Human Services, Education, DHEC, or SCDOT? Or do we try to spark growth by reducing corporate and income taxes? There seem to be a few members representing these viewpoints, while most participants, including your representative, think that we can do a bit of both.

What we cannot do is fall into the trap of thinking that our sputtering recovery is going to support everyone’s pet projects while we cut taxes and revenue to the point where any economic dislocation of even a short duration has us scrambling to pay our bills and keep our promises. We have shown we can live through adversity, now let’s demonstrate that we can be smarter about a return to relative prosperity. For once, I am modestly optimistic that we have learned the lessons of fiscal austerity: to differentiate between our wants and what we actually need. As we go further into the budgeting process, we’ll see if my optimism is justified.

On to local matters with statewide implications. We have heard from quite a number of people on the proposed casino in Hardeeville. While this proposal is for a casino not technically in District 118, it will be become so next year after the redistricting takes place. Also, the proposed casino is literally next door to Sun City, and those residents certainly have an interest in this matter.

I am not opposed to gambling per se. If you are interested you might go to my web site and check out a couple of columns from March of 2009 where I dealt with the issue. My unofficial polling then revealed a general consensus in favor of well-regulated gambling, such as horse or dog racing. The margin was something like 8 to 1 in favor. My thinking has always been that this is a matter of Home Rule. What might be absolutely unacceptable to folks in Newberry, might be highly desirable for residents of Hardeeville or Sun City.

Also, what constitutes “well-regulated” is a crucial detail. My friend, Paula Harper Bethea has done a fantastic job of running the South Carolina Education Lottery, which contrasts vividly with our experience with video poker.

If you have thoughts on what “well-regulated gambling” means, or if you have had experience with gambling in areas where you may have lived, please call me, write me, or preferably email me. If you see good possibilities, say so. If you think there is no such thing as “well-regulated gambling” and gambling makes for unsavory business, say it.

District 118 is blessed with many smart people of different backgrounds and experience who are good enough to share their thoughts on these matters. I know I go to the well pretty often, but you never disappoint me.

As an example, I had a good email conversation last week with a fellow whose name you would recognize. He is a frequent “letter to the editor” contributor whose comments I follow and often admire. He is bright, articulate and passionate about things we both seek to make better. We just happen to represent different areas along the political spectrum. I can admire his letters and opinions but still disagree strongly, and usually do. While I am generally in the mainstream of local political thought and he is somewhat outside that mainstream, I need to hear from him. A good diversity of conviction is essential for civic progress. Let me hear from you!