South Carolina editorial roundup


Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:

Nov. 28

Herald-Journal of Spartanburg on the state's obsolete government structure:

Clearly not all state officials are on board with trying to reduce the state's budget to match its declining revenues.

In 2006, the Legislative Audit Council took a look into the operations of the state Department of Transportation. It found the department timed its deposits and its reimbursements from Washington so that it would have little money on hand at budget time. That allowed the department to convince lawmakers to budget more money for the department.

Now, the Legislative Audit Council has examined the Workers' Compensation Commission. It found the commission delayed depositing $244,000 in fines until after the state had confiscated unused money from the accounts of state agencies.

The commission didn't want the General Assembly to take the money away, so like a deceitful child holding a stolen cookie behind its back, the commission delayed depositing the money, hiding it from lawmakers. This is a violation of state law.

South Carolina taxpayers will be justified in wondering just how many state agencies and commissions are busy hoarding their money, squirreling it away where there will be less scrutiny on how and when it is spent.

We have a distinct lack of accountability in this state. Too many agencies and departments are run by boards and commissions, appointed by lawmakers or by the governor with lawmakers' permission. These boards are not accountable to the people because they aren't elected, and too few voters know who serves on them or that they even exist.

They fragment state authority and power, and they frustrate efforts to hold state government accountable. Elected leaders can always say they aren't responsible for what this or that agency does, that it's up to the board that runs the agency.

This system also clearly insulates each agency from the broader needs of the state and state government. Officials in Transportation and Workers' Compensation must have been comfortable withholding their funds from consideration in the general state budget. They were more concerned with the goals of their agencies than the goals of the state as a whole. ...

South Carolina suffers under an obsolete government structure that no longer works. Lawmakers were unwilling to agree to Gov. Mark Sanford's call to modernize this structure. South Carolinians need to demand that they now work with Gov.-elect Nikki Haley. ...



Nov. 22

The Herald of Rock Hill on the consequenes of slashing 10 days from school year:

A proposal to save the state money by slashing 10 days off the school year should be dead on arrival.

The suggestion comes from state House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dan Cooper, R-Anderson, the House's top budget writer. Cooper said earlier this month that cutting 10 days out of South Carolina's 180-day school year could save $210 million and help ease an $800 million deficit.

While cutting the school calendar undoubtedly would save money, lawmakers need to consider all the consequences as well. The short-term consequences would include a loss of 10 days' pay for the state's teachers and administrators.

It also would mean 10 more days that parents would have to find day care or activities for their children, which would be costly for many. At a time when the state is struggling to revive its economy, cutting the salaries of 50,000 teachers and other school officials, and putting an added burden on families throughout the state would be self-defeating.

The long-term consequences would be even more onerous. Cutting 10 days from the school calendar is 10 days in which students wouldn't be in the classroom, wouldn't be advancing in their studies, wouldn't be getting educated.

The 180-day school year is the norm nationwide, and the Obama administration has pushed for more class time, not less, in the nation's schools. Cutting class time for South Carolina's students would put them behind their peers in other states.

Students at many of the state's low-performing schools already are at a significant disadvantage. Why would the state consider making their plight worse by cutting the number of school days? ...

Education remains the best ticket to prosperity the state can offer. The best incentive we can offer businesses thinking of moving here is a well educated work force.

Jeopardizing that asset for short-term budgetary needs would be absurd. Lawmakers need to let Cooper know this idea is off the table.



Nov. 26

The Post and Courier of Charleston on encouraging jobs outlook:

Boeing's new plant was the economic coup of the decade for South Carolina and has received a great deal of deserved publicity as a result. But it hasn't been the only advance on the state's job front as South Carolina emerges from the recession.

Columnist Ron Brinson even maintains on today's Commentary page that South Carolina's " 'employment' pipeline is solid and the envy of most other states."

Two recent announcements offer job hope where it's most needed: in those counties where double-digit unemployment preceded the recession and has worsened since.

Allendale County, which hovers near the top of the state's unemployment scale at 17.5 percent, will see construction of a biomass energy plant that will produce electricity using timber scrap.

Southeast Renewable Energy is investing $50 million in the plant, which will sell "green" power to Santee Cooper. Twenty jobs will be created at the facility, and there is the expectation of "many indirect jobs in the logging, trucking and forest product industries," the state Commerce Department reports.

The company also has plans for a similar plant in Dorchester County.

And in Clarendon County, where the unemployment rate is 14.5 percent, the Treleoni Group will build a new factory, expected to create 100 jobs.

Commerce Secretary Joe Taylor credited "our focus on the fundamentals such as keeping taxes and regulatory burdens low coupled with Clarendon County's efforts to maintain a highly skilled workforce" for the Treleoni decision.

Gov.-elect Nikki Haley has pledged to make jobs a primary focus of her administration. There's a lot to be done along that line, even with the improving jobless figures.

Brinson's report offers compelling evidence that she will have a substantial foundation to build upon, both in Columbia and in the regional economic development offices across the state.


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