Candidates for S.C. House of Representatives District 5 were asked the following questions:
1. Roads and infrastructure are a major concern and taking into account all budgetary factors, what is your proposed solution and does it include a tax on gasoline purchases?
2. What is the one issue beyond roads and infrastructure you would like to see addressed in the next term and what is your proposed solution?
3. Education funding has not returned to 2008 levels following the financial crisis yet mandates have remained steady or increased. How do we solve this issue?
Rep. Neal Collins — Incumbent
On the eve of the last day of session, the House and Senate agreed to streamline governance and bond surplus money that will result in $4 billion of road money over 10 years. This will fix all 400 structurally deficient bridges in South Carolina. It will also allow for ignored major congestion problems (i.e. Malfunction Junction in Columbia) and repaving issues (i.e. vast stretches of I-85).
However, we did not address the long-term funding need. It’s irresponsible to tell the public DOT has enough funding. Increasing the gas user fee is the most conservative option so that we can capture out of state user fees. I believe we can increase the user fee and offset with tax cuts without breaking our budget. I’m also working on other conservative options for our state.
The second issue is continued education reform. The House passed 7 reform bills in reaction to the Abbeville decision. The Senate passed a few of them. These are the beginning of solutions. The disparities in access to education is alarming and patently unfair. Empowering children with superior education is undoubtedly the cheapest way to reduce all other societal ills – teen pregnancy, unemployment, crime, welfare, etc. Being on the Education Committee, Committee on Children and CERRA, I look forward to improving this disparity and education as a whole.
We continue to chip away at all of our issues as the economy improves. The past two years, education has been the biggest benefactor of the surplus each year. In my first two years, I’ve proudly supported base student cost increasing $230 per pupil. This was the primary reason our district teachers were able to catch up to our neighboring districts in step increases. Our population has dramatically increased since pre-Great Recession. No taxes have been increased. Our demand on a range of issues is growing with our population. Thus, it becomes more important for oversight, efficiency and priorities.
Richard Tate — Challenger
When it comes to our roads what we have is not primarily a funding problem, what we have is primarily a governance problem.
Money sent to SCDOT was declared adequate by Governor Haley in her first term. SCDOT’s current budget is almost twice as much as it was when she took office. We already pay taxes for road repair, and no tax increase will fix the dysfunctional system that has failed to maintain our roads.
The first step in repairing that dysfunction is to make the Director of SCDOT part of the Governor’s cabinet, eliminating the numerous boards and committees that currently control SCDOT. Streamlining SCDOT administration with accountability to the Governor will give the people of South Carolina one person to hold responsible for the condition of our roads, the Governor.
When addressing state funding for education must be restored rather than demanding our School Board raise local property taxes. It is an insult to ask taxpayers to pay again for education needs already paid for through state taxes. A SC House of Representative’s job is to fight for the money that is due the School District under South Carolina law.
A common bond across party lines is the fact that every House Representative has a school district back home. My goal is to build consensus among other House Reps to restore full state funding of education.
The one issue is, in spite of running huge surpluses, 1.2 billion this year alone, our state government continuously under funds basic core obligations.
Pickens County is greatly affected by the lack of State funding for these core obligations.
The Local Government Fund pays for State functions administered through the County, but Pickens County is shorted over a million dollars a year, causing the County to spend local taxes for State functions. That amounts to double taxation.
Both candidates for sheriff have acknowledged that an additional solicitor and more available court time will reduce a significant amount of overcrowding in the County jail. Inadequate funding of our Judiciary System, by State Government, adversely affects the safety and quality of life in our County.
Education, as discussed above, is also on the list of underfunded core obligations.
As your representative, I will use every opportunity to ensure State Government meets its obligations to you, the taxpayer.
Information for this article compiled by D. C. Moody.