Not State Government, but Local Government

Not State Government, but Local Government

It’s a new year, and not only that but a new odd-numbered year – which means that, like the federal Congress, our state Legislature is going into two year session until 2018, the next election year. During this session bills can be introduced, passed, signed by the Governor, and become law. Also at the beginning of every new year people make New Year’s Resolutions, and newspapers editorialize as to what they would like to see from their government this year.

The Columbia newspaper just did that this past week, and listed six goals they would like the South Carolina Legislature to take on. Some are familiar to just about everybody, like “1. Educate all kids,” and some are more wonky, like “5. Free cities and counties.” Over the course of this year we are likely to read about all of them sooner or later; they are pretty good goals. Let’s talk about that goal #5.

I checked my archives and sure enough, there was an OpEd back in September, 2014, on the main issue of the “Free cities and counties” discussion: the Local Government Fund (LGF). Here is summary of that discussion from 2 ½ years ago. Counties like Edgefield County have a Property Tax as their only source of local government income; the LGF was designed to provide local access to a small percentage of the dollars Edgefield County residents pay in their state income tax. The amount to be allocated by the state is set by law at 4.5% of the general fund, prorated to each county and municipality based on their population. The problem, as I wrote back in 2014, “is that state government has been underfunding this obligation every year since 2008. This presents counties like Edgefield and municipalities like Edgefield, Johnston, and Trenton in a real bind: they must carry out state mandated programs, but are not funded by the state to do so. This year {2014] the shortfall was just over 26%.” In the three years since then, Edgefield County’s LGF annual shortfall has ranged from $250,000 to $399,000.

So here is the first challenge of 2017 to Edgefield County’s state Senator Shane Massey and our two state legislators, Rep. Bill Hixon and Rep. Bill Clyburn: fully fund our county government. Fully funding the LGF is an issue that our County Council was unanimous about in the past – an issue that should unite us, Republicans and Democrats alike. The South Carolina Congressional delegation complains loudly when the federal government mandates actions by states, either legislatively or through regulations deemed intrusive and unwanted; those complaints grow even louder when federal funding is not available to carry out those required mandates. Here we have the same thing, except on the state level

Advocating local control over local affairs is always politically popular. If we really mean to “shake them up in Columbia” (Sen. Massey’s campaign slogan), then our state representatives must fund the LGF, to empower Edgefield County to carry out those actions Columbia requires our local government to do.

Robert Scott