Capitol matters - a legislative update from your state representative
Since the House recently passed an initial budget, I thought I would share a few comments from budget week. Democrats sought to raise taxes on the people of South Carolina in two ways. The first was an increase in taxes for firearms, which would have unfairly penalized lawful gun owners. The second tax hike push was an effort to repeal the Homestead Exemption for one year, also known as Act 388. The Homestead Exemption exempts taxes on the first $50,000 in fair market value for homeowners over age 65, the totally and permanently disabled, or legally blind. House Republicans successfully defeated these tax hikes.
I took to the well for the first time to debate four provisos. The first proviso I filed was to cap tuition rates on institutions of higher learning that receive state funding this coming fiscal year. Between 1987 and 2015, tuition costs in South Carolina have soared 761 percent, meanwhile our income levels only increased 85 percent during that time and housing was up 130 percent, healthcare 240 percent, you get the picture. We are #1 nationally in tuition as a percentage of household income. We need to hold colleges who receive state funding accountable for how they’re spending those dollars.
The second proviso I submitted was to restripe a portion of I-526 between the Wando Terminal and the Don Holt bridge. This section of road affects every single person in the district and includes the SC Ports Authority. We will not see this side of I-526 widened until 2030. I find it nonsensical that this vital section of road is last on their priority list given the nearly 89,000 vehicles per day.
When I met with DOT, they stated they needed another 60 days to provide a quote on restriping this specific portion of road. Yet by the time I presented the proviso, 24 hours later, they had all the scary, astronomical numbers needed to oppose the amendment. The political machinations that work against us are fascinating.
The third proviso I presented was to prohibit Santee Cooper from hiring outside contract lobbyists. They hired them for the first time this session, to the tune of $13,000 per month. I questioned the need for wasting money by a quasi-state agency on outside lobbyists to work against the state that owns them by working against any proposed purchase. Again, this goes back to holding our government and its agencies accountable.
Lastly, I submitted a proviso to set aside funds on legislation that would create a pilot program to integrate data across law enforcement. Imagine if we had the ability to prevent the next Dylann Roof or Nicolas Cruz because we were able to see information on those with a criminal history across the state in a much faster, more accurate way. I see this legislation as a life saving measure for both law enforcement and students in our schools.
At every step of the budget process, I plan to continue doing my part to limit the size and scope of government. That means eliminating unnecessary spending and making sure your tax dollars are being spent on legitimate needs, not political pork. There’s been far too much of the latter in recent years, and my goal is to cut as much of it as possible while providing greater accountability and oversight of the things government should be doing.
Nancy Mace, a Daniel Island resident, was elected to represent S.C. House District 99 in a special election in January of 2018. The seat covers all of Daniel Island and portions of the Cainhoy peninsula, Mount Pleasant, Hanahan and Goose Creek.