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Why the business community is disappointed in the South Carolina Statehouse

Author: Ted Pitts, President & CEO of the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce

Source: Upstate Business Journal

June 12, 2015

I ran into a colleague last week, a business leader who has been deeply engaged with the South Carolina General Assembly and the political process for the past three decades. As we lamented the lack of progress during the past six months at the Statehouse, we couldn’t help but talk about the apparent disconnection between some elected officials, particularly in the Senate, and regular South Carolinians.

As the leader of the state’s largest broad-based business organization, my job at the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce is to lead the organization that serves as the unified voice of business, working alongside employers and others to make our state more competitive. Business leaders are faced with tough decisions every day, and they must take action. Their employees’ livelihoods depend on it. It is not an option to “do nothing.” So why do our elected officials, who handle the state’s business (and in many ways the quality of life of South Carolinians), think it is okay to kick problems down the road over and over again without finding a solution?

South Carolina’s business community and its citizens were clear on the No. 1 priority they wanted legislators to address this year: finding comprehensive and sustainable funding for our state’s crumbling infrastructure. Critical to economic development, safety, tourism, agribusiness and quality of life, the business community has been urging legislators for many years to work together on a long-term plan. I have to commend the House’s efforts, led by Speaker Jay Lucas and Rep. Gary Simrill, on passing an infrastructure funding package early in the legislative session by a vote of 87-20.

What is truly disappointing about the 2015 session is the inaction in the Senate. With four proposals on the table and two months left in session, the South Carolina Senate failed to debate and vote on an infrastructure bill. With no progress, South Carolinians are now left with more than 2,000 bridges in disrepair and almost one-third of primary and interstate highways in poor or mediocre condition. Our rural roads have crept up to be the second deadliest in the nation, and our interstates continue to see more and more congestion.

On June 4, the South Carolina General Assembly adjourned sine die for the first half of the two-year legislative session. The business community is extremely disappointed that the No. 1 issue facing the state was put off again for another year. It looks like the General Assembly may allocate one-time dollars toward infrastructure when they take up the supplemental appropriations bill on June 16, which is better than nothing. The South Carolina Chamber has called on the General Assembly to spend at least half of that expected surplus on infrastructure.

One thing is for sure: The business community is getting a clear picture on which legislators we can count on to address the issues facing our state’s competitiveness and the safety of our citizens and which legislators we can’t.

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