There are a lot of things happening in Columbia. As most of us already know, our region was hit with bad news coming from SRS. It is never easy to deal with the loss of jobs, especially when they are your neighbors. In this weeks update, I have some information on what we are doing in the State House to do our part in insuring the future of SRS.
Last week we passed the Charter School Bill. Also, the budget has passed through the House Committee and should be on the floor for debate in next couple of weeks.
I introduced a new bill that will help honor veterans and I have also included updates on several other issues in this weeks legislative update.
I hope that you find this weeks update helpful and informative:
While we are now dealing with job losses based on decisions made in the past. We are focusing on the future and taking every chance we can get to let the DOE (Department of Energy) and SRNS(Savannah River Nuclear Solutions) know how important it is that we preserve the talent pool that is currently at SRS. President Obama's proposed federal budget cuts of $100 million from H Canyon projects will need to be reversed. SRNS executives confirmed that if H Canyon isn't fully funded it will result in the loss of "several hundred jobs" beyond the 1400 positions that we are dealing with now.
The goal is to shift some employees to other projects. These are highly skilled workers; their talents will be lost. There is an additional concern that less funds means H Canyon, which is a unique, historic facility, won't receive needed maintenance to insure its viability in the future. That could be catastrophic. Emphasizing that point, Sen. Greg Ryberg stated, "We can't afford to lose good people and that unique asset." Rep. Tom Young expressed concern that the talent pool will be disbursed and the trickledown effect on the local economy could be devastating." We all agreed that that reversing Obama's funding reduction at H Canyon is critical to the survival of employment at SRS. Our SC Senators and Congressmen are pressing for funding.
I am working with our Aiken Legislative Delegation to help setup a meeting with the Georgia Delegation so that we can meet about this important issue as well as other issues that effect the CSRA such as the Savannah River.
71% oppose increasing sales, income or other taxes while 27% are in favor that approach.
53% oppose reducing pay or benefits for government workers while 44% are in favor.
48% opposed reducing or eliminating government programs while 47% were in favor of cuts.
(Remember this is a NATIONAL poll)
Here in South Carolina we were able to; Increase the base student cost – the amount per student that we give to local school districts – by 10.5 percent. The House budget writers saved money by combining many agencies.
Here are the highlights…
- The budget increases the 'Base Student Cost' sent to K-12 public schools by 10% to $1,780 per child. That's a benchmark school funding number.
- There is also a move here to streamline the number of pots of state money that go to public schools to allow local school districts to have more flexibility on spending.
- The other huge budget category is Medicaid. This budget provides the rapidly expanding Medicaid program with an additional $380 million. $157 million comes from the increased cigarette tax revenues using money that has accrued since the tax took effect in July as well as half the money the state expects to collect during the next fiscal year.
- Most importantly, the budget plan gives Medicaid officials flexibility in setting provider rates cutting the fees paid to doctors and hospitals.
- State public colleges and universities would receive $117 million less, a 5.6% cut in the state monies received this year, ending June 30, 2011.
- No cost-of-living raises for state workers for the second consecutive year.
- $180 million set aside in the 'rainy day fund'.
- The Department of Corrections was combined with the Probation, Pardons, and Parole.
- The Arts Commission and the State Museum were moved to the Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism.
- Consumer Affairs was given to the Secretary of State.
- Additional $10 million to assist the Department of Commerce to recruit new business to South Carolina and $13 million in new job training for our state's technical colleges.
The budget now goes to the full House for debate in two weeks.
The first thing everyone must remember is that the General Assembly is not the US Congress. We must approve balanced budgets and we have no way to print money to cover shortfalls. We may spend only what comes in from tax revenues. So when our state is facing another major cut in revenue, we must make cuts in spending. Cutting programs is not always popular. We know that. But in lean times, our conservative philosophy dictates that government should live like a family – you have to tighten your belts and spend less. However, that is not the philosophy shared by all of the members of the House.
Please keep in mind that you can view Live broadcasts of the South Carolina House of Representatives daily legislative sessions by clicking Here.
As always you can go to my FACEBOOK page and hit the like button.
You can also go to the new House Roll Call Votes Page to see how all the representatives have voted on the important bills.
Thank you for the privilege of serving you in Columbia. If I can ever be of assistance to you, or if you have ideas on issues you want me to share with the rest of the General Assembly, please don't hesitate to contact me at Home at 803-278-0892 or at work 803-279-8855.
Representative Bill Hixon – SC House of Representative – District 83