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Are We Looking for a Note in the Bottle?

By Sen. Shane Massey
web posted February 25, 2009
COLUMN – Most people know by now that my wife and I had our first child last September.  I’m having a great time with our little girl.  She’s a blessing to us all.

As you can imagine, I want to be the best father I can be.  That’s why I’ve been trying to bone-up on a few of the children’s classics, like Winnie the Pooh.  It’s been eye-opening to start reading some of them again.

In one story, Pooh’s friend Piglet is surrounded by water.  Not knowing exactly what to do, Piglet puts a note in a bottle.  The bottle drifts around until Pooh finds it, and Pooh is later able to save Piglet.

I relate this story to you because it reminds me of how state government is reacting to the current budget crisis.  Legislators didn’t listen to those of us who said, “We’re spending too much and not saving enough.”  I guess some people think an economic rainy day will never come.  Yet, here we are in the midst of the worst storm in decades.

Sometimes, it seems my colleagues are putting a note in a bottle, hoping help will arrive instead of finding ways to attack problems before they happen.

Limiting State Spending
Finally, we’re attacking the problem head-on.

The S.C. Senate is now considering legislation to limit our spending in good times and require the State to save more money for difficult times.  That’s a great step forward.

Also, the Senate is debating the creation of a commission for a comprehensive review of how we tax in South Carolina.  The commission would take a look at all our taxes – and tax exemptions – and report back to the General Assembly with recommendations on how to improve our tax structure.

As you can imagine, budget and funding issues will dominate this year’s legislative session – and be on our minds with every decision we make.

Making Government More Transparent
But there are other items of interest.

For example, the Senate did pass a rules change to make our work in Columbia more transparent.  If you know more about what we’re doing, you can provide better input and make more informed decisions at the ballot box.

This new rule requires Senators to record our votes on all significant or contested legislation, instead of relying on a voice vote.

Also, my bill to require legislators to disclose what earmarks they put into the budget is moving forward.  It has cleared a subcommittee and now awaits debate in the Senate Finance Committee.

This legislation would force us to put our names on all the “pet projects” we might want to put into the budget and require us to justify the spending.  Not all projects are bad, but I strongly believe you should know the names of the legislators who add projects to our budget and the reasons for those projects.

Talking to Me
In the coming weeks, I’ll announce another round of Neighborhood Chats.  I think it’s important for me to give you updates on legislation in Columbia and to seek your input.  I look forward to seeing you there.

Of course, you don’t have to wait on a Neighborhood Chat to talk to me.  I want to continue to hear your concerns and ideas all year long. If you have an opinion on an issue, you can contact me by telephone (803-480-0419), email (shanemassey@scsenate.org), or regular mail (P.O. Box 551, Edgefield, SC, 29824).

That’s much better than putting a note in a bottle.


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