Commentary

BRACK:  State should provide flexibility with local tourism taxes

BRACK:  State should provide flexibility with local tourism taxes

By Andy Brack, editor and publisher  |   South Carolina’s legislators need to provide more flexibility to city and county governments in how they can use some of the tax money they collect as the state works to take away more of their revenue.

For years, local governments have received state subsidies to comply with requirements that cities and counties provide some state-mandated services, such as maintaining ditches along state roads or providing offices for courts and some agencies.  By law, the state is supposed to pay 4.5 percent of the previous year’s general fund to help counties with the cost of these required state services.  But since 2010, the state has been shorting local governments with the gap now at just under $100 million a year.

Meanwhile, local governments are hogtied by the state from levying lots of new taxes to pay for these mandated services and the increasing costs of providing local services, such as water, sewer, planning and law enforcement. 

by · 12/08/2017 · Andy Brack, Commentary
Water rushed in to flood the Sea Pines area of Hilton Head Island (Photo by Bruce Draper, Palmetto Electric Cooperative).

MY TURN:  Flood risk assessment to force major change in local, state borrowing

By Fred Palm, special to Statehouse Report   |  A major transition just began in public finance now that two bond rating agencies, Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s, the say they will add the risk of flooding to  flood risk to financial risk when they evaluate the total risk.  The addition is expected to have a major impact on associated bond interest rates that state and local governments will pay to borrow up front for their major building programs.

Why the change? The rating agencies are concerned lenders can lose all their investments should flooding impacts become extreme. To date, only financial risk was measured. This new metric can be expected to impact the state and local public finance decisions of lenders and borrowers.

BRACK: Time will tell if McMaster’s running mate gamble pays off

BRACK: Time will tell if McMaster’s running mate gamble pays off

By Andy Brack, editor and publisher  |  Gov. Henry McMaster made a strategic political decision this week.  Whether it’s good or bad remains to be seen, but it certainly surprised the establishment in Columbia.

McMaster announced a political neophyte, Ohio native Pamela Evette – a Travelers Rest business executive who moved to South Carolina in 2005 – would be his running mate in next year’s gubernatorial race.

That is, if he wins the GOP party nomination.  Three other political animals – Lt. Gov. Kevin Bryant of Anderson, former Lt. Gov. Yancey McGill of Kingstree and former agency head Catherine Templeton of Mount Pleasant (who also has never held elected office) – want to be the Republican standard bearer at the top of the 2018 ticket.

by · 12/01/2017 · 2018, Andy Brack, Commentary
FEEDBACK: On independent living; Delay exploring for oil and gas

FEEDBACK: On independent living; Delay exploring for oil and gas

Megan Branham: “In your recent TOP FIVE report dated November 21, there was a focus on aging out of foster care and the article noted, “South Carolina is among 25 states that has not chosen to extend foster care beyond 18 years old.” On behalf of the Palmetto Association for Children and Families (PAFCAF), I wanted to take a moment and provide clarification on this point for future stories or publication.”

Also: Fred Palm and Jim Watkins on oil, gas exploration off S.c.’s coast.

by · 12/01/2017 · Commentary, Feedback
MY TURN: Adjusting for inflation: A lesson for future policy

MY TURN: Adjusting for inflation: A lesson for future policy

By Holley Ulbrich, special to Statehouse Report  |  A few years ago during the effort to get the state retirement system moving back toward solvency, the General Assembly did something unusual, interesting and worth copying in other contexts. 

Retirees had been getting a COLA (cost of living adjustment) based on the Consumer Price Index.  The General Assembly capped it at $500 a year, which meant that anyone whose state pension was more than $50,000 did not get a much bigger raise than the average pensioner.  The 1 percent limit has been fine during a period of low inflation, although it may need to be reconsidered if inflation heats up again.  But the cap is the interesting part.

The Consumer Price Index tells us what has happened to the cost of the things we consumers buy every day—food, clothing, medicine, dog food, electricity, housing, cable TV.  All retired people experience about the same increase in many of those costs—a price jump in the cable rates or the price of a kilowatt hour or a box of cereal. So why should the higher-paid retirees deserve to get a bigger dollar increase than the people who cleaned their offices or mowed the lawn outside the building where they worked?

The S.C. Supreme Court, Columbia, S.C.

BRACK: High court lets legislature off the education hook

By Andy Brack, editor and publisher  |  Shame on a majority of the legislatively-elected S.C. Supreme Court for letting the General Assembly off the hook on funding poor, rural schools.  State leaders haven’t yet spent enough money or done enough work to upgrade these neglected schools so that they’re on par with urban and suburban public schools.

On Nov. 17, the court ruled 3-2 to dismiss the 24-year-old Abbeville v. State of South Carolina school equity funding lawsuit.  The order, however, is premature because state legislators only started moving these schools toward parity after a 2014 order by the court.  Now without the court’s oversight, there’s no pressure on the General Assembly to make good on its promises.

With gazillions of dollars of state funding needs, do you really trust legislators not to continue a legacy of inattention in the so-called “Corridor of Shame” area where a multitude of challenges persist?

by · 11/24/2017 · Andy Brack, Commentary
Clark, ca. 1960

FEEDBACK: Loved column on the late Septima Clark

J. Herman Blake, John’s Island: “I truly loved the column you wrote on Septima [Clark] on Friday.  I read it over several times. You really caught the essence of her spirit and I was deeply moved.  It stimulated my recollection of the Good Friday in 1974 when I took her to speak to about 150-200 inmates at California State Prison in Vacaville, Calif. —a maximum security prison.” 

by · 11/24/2017 · Commentary, Feedback
MY TURN: Be the voice for our healthy families and communities

MY TURN: Be the voice for our healthy families and communities

By Ann Warner, special to Statehouse Report  |  Far too many women in South Carolina continue to struggle to access high-quality reproductive health care, and lawmakers continue to try to introduce new barriers to access.

We have seen countless attempts to undermine access to affordable birth control by refusing to fully implement the Affordable Care Act or allowing someone’s boss to take away coverage based on their own personal beliefs. Meanwhile, maternal mortality and unintended teen pregnancy rates continue to harm far too many women, girls and families in our state.

Since the 2005-2006 South Carolina legislative session, more than 90 harmful bills have been introduced in our state. This is despite the fact that recent polling data shows that 86.3 percent of South Carolinians agree that access to birth control helps the financial situation of families, and that 85 percent of people generally believe that abortion care should be available in our state.