To the Contrary

State budget shortfall

The $81 million shortfall in anticipated state revenue underscores the need to follow Gov. Mark Sanford's frugal approach to state government. The shortfall will mean cuts to the supplemental budget and difficult times for some of the expected recipients. ...

For years, Gov. Sanford has urged lawmakers to approve budgets that allow for defined, incremental increases based on the inflation rate and state population growth. That steady approach accommodates fiscal responsibility, and not legislative wishful thinking, which explains why it has never gained the Legislature's approval. ...

Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom also has been critical of the Legislature's unwillingness to exercise adequate fiscal responsibility on the billions in unfunded liabilities related to state retirees, which also has an ill effect on the state's credit rating.

The problems of years past should have taught the Legislature a lesson in fiscal restraint. The latest problem says it's time for the Legislature to follow the governor's frugal budgetary lead.

Long summer vacations

Families who enjoyed the longer summer vacation this year shouldn't get used to it. It won't happen again.

School will start at the same time next year, but the school year that just began will end later. The school year is still 180 days. Vacation won't be any longer. Instead of starting in mid-May and ending in early August, summer vacation will begin the first week of June and end in the third week of August.

Some families may be surprised by that. If so, it's because they bought the lies told by those who demanded a state law setting a mandatory start date for South Carolina schools.

They sold it as a family measure. They claimed they would give families more time with their children.

It was an obvious falsehood. The only way to make summer vacation longer is to shorten the school year or take time away from other vacations throughout the year, such as Christmas. ...

Remember this the next time a lawmaker tells you he really cares about education. Ask him how he voted on this school calendar law. And don't let him tell you he voted for it so families will have more time with their children.

U.S. census

Local governments across South Carolina are gearing up, including a meeting with one of the state's chief demographers, to make sure that the next U.S. census produces an accurate head count.

Public officials statewide were stunned when data were released eight years ago. The 2000 data and that collected in the 1990 census showed a sharp drop in percentage of growth for some municipalities and counties.

This is serious business, and everyone should be concerned. Federal revenue collected statewide goes to every city and county based on the number of people who live there, not on the amount of tax collected in a particular jurisdiction. Census figures are the basis for determining how funds ranging from alcohol to gas taxes are allocated to local governments.

Census figures also determine how lines are drawn for seats in the General Assembly and Congress. After every census, the lines are re-evaluated, producing winners and losers.

The role of Bobby Bowers, director of research for the state Budget and Control Board, is to heighten awareness of the importance of accurate population figures.

Bowers' recent message was to get the mailing list in order and educate the public on the necessity of returning census forms. It's sound advice.