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The Election And Some Reflections

I am again standing for election to the South Carolina House of Representatives for District 18 (Blue Ridge, Greer and Taylors). Though I do not face opposition in tomorrow’s election, I remain humbled and honored to represent such good folks in Columbia.

While serving as your representative, we have witnessed a remarkable number of significant political events that have impacted our state and nation since I was first elected in 2008. The road from then until now has not been easy. The way forward remains clouded.

On the national front, our Congressional Delegation faces international issues that will significantly shape South Carolina’s economy.  South Carolina has a global economy. In 2017, international trade made up 31.9% of South Carolinas Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Our percentage of international trade makes us the fourth highest state in the nation.

We must pay attention to the international markets. An increasingly aggressive Russia continues to destabilize whatever it can. China has become more authoritarian and less free-market oriented. Brexit will change our trade relationship with Great Britain and the European Union. The overhaul of NAFTA will change the dynamics of our relationships with Canada and Mexico. South Carolina has companies that do business in all of these markets.

President Trump’s renegotiations of our trade agreements have been needed since the Great Recession. Trump has handled China and Russia well so far. He remains spot-on regarding his stance on illegal immigration. A growing economy like ours requires the free flow of labor. As our unemployment rate drops companies will need outside labor. No matter how great the need, if the workers come from outside the United States, they must enter the country legally. I support Trump in his efforts while reminding our Congressional Delegation to protect South Carolina’s economy when passing laws that impact international trade.

On the state level, our greatest challenges are improving our k – 12 public schools and efficiently administering the federal healthcare regulations and programs. Our underfunded state pension plan remains a dark and unpredictable cloud over our state budget.

When I was first elected in 2008, my goal was to join with other conservative reform-minded legislators to help create a small and more efficient state government. Faced with the stock market crash tsunami that was to become the Great Recession, we were forced to cut the size of state government quickly and inefficiently. In fact, we cut the state budget by about 25%. The sudden cut of tax monies to certain government agencies that were already inefficient made them unstable. Some agencies have still not fully recovered.

We should stop at this point to remember that most state agencies are just administrative processors of federal funds. These agencies were created by Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society legislation that was passed by Congress in the 1960’s.

As my group of conservative reform-minded legislators moved through the years of the Great Recession, we attempted to eliminate certain agencies and found out how effective Johnson’s Great Society handouts had addicted the states to federal funds. Any attempt that we made on a state level to cut the budget of these agencies or completely eliminate them were met with cries of how we were hurting individual South Carolinians.

Consider the South Carolina Arts Commission. It was created in 1967 as part of Johnson’s Great Society program. The agency structure is paid for by South Carolina tax dollars and the agency’s purpose is to oversee the flow of federal funds to various local arts initiatives.

When our group of legislative reformers attempted to defund the Arts Commission during the worst times of the Great Recession, we were told how our actions would decrease public school students access to art and would eliminate much needed grants to individual artists. These supporters of big government gave no thought to the ordinary South Carolinians who lost their jobs or had their pay cut.

While I strongly support and appreciate the arts, during times of severe economic conditions like the Great Recession – a time when programs were cut that hurt disabled children and at risk senior citizens – I agreed with the other reformers that we needed to prioritize spending. Status quo legislators did not agree and our little group of conservative reformers was thwarted in our attempts. In the end, disabled students could still take art class but they could not get to school because their transportation dollars had been cut. Such is the logic of government.

Secondary education is another area greatly impacted by the Great Society legislation. Prior to 1965, states did not receive any significant federal funds for secondary education. The Great Society legislation included the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 that funded a billion dollars to those schools. Then came the Higher Education Act of 1965 that turned on the faucet to state colleges.

Johnson left no stone unturned as his Great Society introduced Medicaid that would be administered by the states. Then came laws impacting welfare, housing, labor, environment, transportation and the list goes on. As each Great Society bill was passed the states became more addicted to those federal dollars

South Carolina’s addiction to federal dollars prevents our reform of state agencies. The addiction can only be broken by an intervention from Congress. The reformers in the General Assembly need to coordinate goals with reformers in our Congressional Delegation. To my knowledge, no such coordination exists. That needs to change.

We are past time for the Washington centric big spending Great Society programs to be held accountable for their failure to deliver the Great Society promises they made in the 1960s. In case you have not noticed, the 1960s are long gone and our society is not so great anymore.

One Comment

  1. Claire Nettles

    Tommy I am glad you are in Columbia and are looking at all of the issues . Your input into the pension system is vital . I hope that some of the surplus money will go towards paying down the enormous unfunded deficit that was caused in part by the poor management and investment strategies exposed during the hearings which were held . We are lucky to have someone like you representing us

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