To the Contrary

Reform group wants to fix state government

Do you think that South Carolina government should be improved? If so, we agree with you.

The need to inform voters about the benefits of change led me and others to start a non-partisan organization called Reform SC to build support for improving our state. I respectfully disagree with a recent editorial portraying our efforts in simply a "Gov. Sanford vs. the Legislature" vein. Presenting it this way certainly fits with a commonly rehashed storyline and was reinforced by responses from Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler and House Speaker Bobby Harrell, who characterized this effort as a "punch in the nose."

However, the premise is wrong because Reform SC is not about them, nor is it about Gov. Sanford. It is about further educating South Carolinians on how long overdue our state is for change. We certainly try to defend the taxpayers and see part of our education effort as letting voters know what their representatives say and do.

That being said, we view ourselves as allies to public officials wanting to change the status quo in Columbia. We hope that Speaker Harrell, Sen. Peeler and other legislators eager for reform will view us in that light rather than as any sort of threat.

OK, so you are probably thinking that everyone is for reform but what specifically do we want to change? Our list could fill this page and more but I will only submit the following for starters.

We are the only state in the entire country with a Budget and Control Board. While every other state puts the governor in charge of their administrative agency, ours is controlled by five people, two of whom are legislators. The result is that our branches of government are neither separate nor equal.

A flawed structure

This flawed structure costs us all. It is a reason we get less from our government while spending 130 percent of the national average for it. It is a reason that the commission I recently chaired made recommendations that could save the state $500 million over the next few years by doing things differently at this agency.

One discovery by our commission was that our state's $21 million annual property reinsurance policy has been with the same broker for 25 years. The firm -- which was owned by a former legislator -- hadn't even had to competitively bid for the state's business since 1988.

According to a national budgeting association, our state increased government spending by 25 percent over the past two years. This was the third highest spending increase in the country and double the national average.

Spending increases

The budget for the current year increased spending by over another $1 billion. That number includes tens of millions for local pork projects and likely would have included an additional $950,000 appropriated by the Senate for a Green Bean Museum if not for an education effort from our group.

These massive spending increases are especially troublesome given our growing $20 billion debt for outstanding promises made to our state's retirees that haven't been funded.

It will be almost impossible to change things in Columbia until people are aware of the real problems that hold us back. We plan to make voters more aware of these and other issues so that they demand reform. Without a powerful force to change it, the status quo generally prevails, so it will take a chorus of voices supporting change to make it happen in Columbia. For that reason, we ask the speaker, the majority leader and every legislator to consider supporting our efforts to educate voters about the need for change.

If you are interested in joining our effort, please sign up on our Website at www.reformsc.com or call me at (843) 375-1361.

This weekly column features opposing views from readers. These opinions are contrary to those expressed on this page or which otherwise take issue with something that appears in The Herald. All commentaries submitted become the property of The Herald and may be republished in any format.

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