I begin this update with a heavy heart, having just learned of the murder of Aiken Public Safety Officer Sandy Rogers following a traffic stop on Saturday morning. I ask that you please keep the Rogers family and Aiken Public Safety in your prayers. And the next time you see law enforcement officers, tell them you appreciate their service. They go to work every day to protect us and maintain a civil, orderly society that allows us to live in freedom. The least we can do is say, “thank you.” God bless you, Sandy Rogers.
Budget Update – As in most states, South Carolina’s budget is based on projections of how much revenue the state will collect. This week, the Board of Economic Advisers (BEA), the entity in charge of revenue projections, met to review tax collections and analyze South Carolina’s financial situation. The most important conclusion is that South Carolina’s economy continues to improve. Here are some of the numbers:
- October 2011 tax collections were 4.3% higher than tax collections in October 2010
- November 2011 tax collections were 6.0% higher than tax collections in November 2010
- December 2011 tax collections were 7.3% higher than tax collections in December 2010
- For the fiscal year (July 2011 – June 2012), South Carolina has collected 5.3% more in tax revenue than at this point last year.
The steady increase in those numbers reflects two significant points. First, more people are working and paying income taxes. Second, South Carolinians are regaining confidence in the economy by spending money and paying sales taxes. Overall, these numbers indicate we are making steady progress, and that’s great news.
A surplus this year? – Many news outlets and special interest groups have been talking about a projected budget surplus for this year. In fact, the BEA has projected a surplus of roughly $913 million ($535 million in recurring funds and $378 million in one-time money). You can see a 2-page Budget Outlook prepared by the State Budget Office here.
I have my thoughts on what we should do with that surplus, and I will share those thoughts with you as we go forward if the estimates hold true. I’m curious as to what you think, though. Please let me know how you think we should handle a surplus.
Department of Administration – The Senate continued to debate a bill that would abolish the Budget and Control Board and create a new Department of Administration. I talked about this legislation in detail last week. I hope to have good news to report next week.
Funding for Presidential Primary – You may have read that several counties across South Carolina (none in our area) sued the State Elections Commission and the South Carolina Republican Party, asking for more funds to pay for the presidential primary on January 21. Prior to the lawsuit, the Republican Party had agreed to pay a large portion of the primary’s cost. After the Supreme Court’s ruling on the suit, the Party backed out with the understanding that current law did not allow the Party to contribute.
Since the party had agreed to pay for a good bit of the primary costs before the suit, I filed legislation that would allow the Republican Party to contract with the State Elections Commission for the costs of the election. Unfortunately, my bill was defeated in subcommittee this week. You can see a news report of the subcommittee hearing here.
State Employees’ Luncheon – This past Friday, January 27, I joined Representatives Bill Taylor and Tom Young at an annual lunch hosted by the Aiken Chapter of the South Carolina State Employees Association. It was a great meeting with a large turnout. Thank you to all the hard-working state employees who do a great job for all of us!
Speaking with Groups – Several groups, clubs, and classes around our Senate district have invited me to attend their meetings and provide legislative updates. If you would like for me to come speak with your group, please send let me know.
Email updates – If you know of people in or around District 25 who do not receive my updates but would like to get them, please email their names and email addresses to me. You can also forward this email to them and encourage them to sign up for the updates at www.senatormassey.com.