By Paul Gable
SC House Ways and Means chairman Brian White listed roads, schools and pensions as three priorities in the current SC General Assembly legislative agenda.
Since the Ways and Means Committee writes the budget, White’s priorities are important.
White issued the following press release yesterday as the General Assembly opened its legislative year:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 12, 2016
Ways and Means Committee Begins Committee Work
House Budget writers start deliberations
(Columbia, SC) – House Ways and Means Chairman Brian White (District 6-Anderson) today released the following statement:
“The Ways and Means Committee and its subcommittees have been meeting since November on the impact of the historic flooding and to hear budget requests but now that the legislative session has arrived we begin fully our comprehensive and open deliberations to fund state government for fiscal year 2016-17.
Our state’s excellent recent economic growth and prudent budget decisions the General Assembly made last year have resulted in $1.2 billion in unobligated general funds that are available in this year’s appropriations process. We also begin this year with significant obligations such as flood costs, the Abbeville school lawsuit, transportation funding, and a growing pension problem, not to mention state agency requests of over $2.1 billion. Ways and Means will weigh the requests and our responsibilities and be sensible stewards of taxpayer dollars while also providing for an accountable and responsible state government,” stated Chairman White.
While $1.2 billion in excess revenue sounds like a lot, it can be absorbed quickly in road repairs, pension shortfalls and aiding poor, rural school districts to improve their facilities.
Flood relief falls into the same general category as road maintenance. When you ignore infrastructure maintenance and repair for as long as South Carolina has done, it eventually catches up with you.
That time appears to be here.
An early indicator of the General Assembly mood could come next week. SC DOT Interim Director Christy Hall is scheduled to give a ‘State of the SCDOT’ speech January 20th. It should be interesting to hear what Hall has to say and reactions to her address.
With this being an election year, not much other than White’s priorities seem to be on the legislative horizon.
Ethics reform, an issue that received lots of ink, but not much in the way of real reform, is certainly dead in the General Assembly.