Wednesday, March 19, 2014

From the House

Bluffton Today

It was quite a week at the statehouse for this legislator and your hard working delegation. With work on the House budget on short final approach, your team was in the thick of it. We managed to get out a fair, well crafted, and coherent budget in near record time. If it sounds like I am pleased with our efforts, well, good work is simply good work.

Much of the credit goes to our outstanding Ways and Means Committee chairman, Rep. Brian White from Anderson County, as well as to the various subcommittee chairmen, including yours truly. We agreed early on to a plan and a schedule, and didn’t allow the inevitable distractions to impede deliberations.

For those of you interested in the particulars, I have a copy of the General Appropriations Bill for fiscal year 2014-2015 and the Capital Reserve Fund Bill, H.4702, at my office in the Promenade. If you wish to view the details of what was done with your money, how it was done, what was spent, and what was saved, please come by and check these documents out for a day and bring them back. Last year, we had them out every day for three months.

Every year when we finish up the budget process, I usually have a few things that I think we could have done a little better. Maybe we could have saved a little more, appropriated more for this agency or less for that agency. This year, it seems to me that we got it about right, especially since we got it all done without a tax increase.

Twelve years ago, I realized that in our part of the Lowcountry, the tide, as far as taxes were concerned, always seemed to be going out. Our dollars were flowing to Columbia with not that much service or infrastructure to show for us. I asked you to send me to the statehouse to see what we could do to get a little balance in the system, to help the tide flow a little more in our direction. You not only sent me to Columbia as your representative, but you educated and encouraged me, hollered at me, baked me cakes for Christmas, and altogether showed me how to be your fiscally conservative, get-it-done, no excuses, representative.

As I look at this budget, it is plain that the tide now runs both ways. Our schools are benefiting from a revised Education Finance Act (EFA) formula, USCB and Technical College of the Lowcountry are now funded commensurate with their contributions to our community. There are dollars for the May River Water Quality efforts. The Waddell Mariculture Center is starting to look like the world-class research station it has always been, with renovation funding on the way. Our roads and bridges, essential services like the Rape Crisis Center, C-Funds, and a host of items are now being funded at frugal but reasonable levels. At the risk of sounding like one of those folks on Facebook showing off a new puppy, please come by and check out these budget documents. If you are like me and really want to dig into it, come by and check out on a Friday and return on Monday. Like a new puppy, it is a thing of beauty.

As if all that was not enough, my good friend Donna Huffman is back from a stay at MUSC and is doing well. Donna, as most of you know, is the founder of the Bluffton Breeze magazine, as well as the lovely wife of my neighbor and pal, Ted Huffman, Mayor Pro Tem of the Town of Bluffton. Mary and I are so grateful for the good outcome to a scary episode.