Wednesday, December 18, 2013

From the House

Bluffton Today

The number of calls and emails we received on my last column was amazingly high. The possibility of an Article Five convention process seemed to resonate strongly with a lot of folks for a number of different reasons. Most were excited about the prospect of a balanced budget amendment, or at least something that would make the federal government more likely to live within its means. Many folks think that the relationship between the federal and state governments has gotten out of whack to the extent we need to revisit our current version of federalism.


There were, however, more than a few wise souls urging caution and the provision of safeguards against allowing the process to be highjacked by extremists of various stripes. The operative thought here was to “be careful what you wish for.” There will be more information on this as the session evolves.


It is only a few weeks before we reconvene the session at the statehouse. My meeting schedule is starting to really tighten up as we put the final pieces of our delegation strategy together. We are certainly going to build on the successes of last Spring, especially with regard to funding parity for our local university and technical college. We mounted a full court press with Dr. Jane Upshaw and Dr. Lynn McGee adding their persuasive arguments to the mix. We did make good progress, but the goal of genuine per-student parity is certainly achievable for next year.


We are also going to be looking to make realistic progress in reducing our infrastructure deficits. We heard loud and clear, the message from the South Carolina Business Roundtable regarding our crumbling roads and bridges. They made a good case, particularly for the I-26 corridor, complete with cost estimates and timelines. Although there were some fiscal gestures made in the direction of roads and bridges in the budget, in my view, we need to get serious.


My colleague, Rep. Weston Newton, did a ton of driving during the off-season. He was somewhat chagrined at the contrast between our roads and bridges and those of our regional competitors. He has considerable experience from his county council chairman days in getting on the right priority lists and finding road dollars in federal cubbyholes. He is also very energized about being a part of the whole infrastructure conversation.


I am certainly on board, but each year I think this will be the time we get serious about this part of our economic package, only to be disappointed. As a businessperson, I look at our transportation infrastructure as a gigantic investment, which we have allowed to languish. We are past the point where we can delay for much longer and still remain in the game with Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina. Your delegation will have more specific proposals as the session moves along.


This is the time of year when I have to remind everyone to be smart about holiday parties and celebrations. As a parent, I seem to reflexively need to talk about having a designated driver, calling a cab if you find yourself in a potentially bad situation, or having some thought to how things can get out of hand before we know what’s happening. Nothing would damage a family holiday more completely than a party-related traffic mishap, or worse.
Nonetheless, Mary and I hope you all have the best Christmas ever, complete with the best family time, football watching, and plenty of good food. Family, football and food. What could be better? Merry Christmas!