- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:

Sept. 2

The State, Columbia, South Carolina on spending state’s year-end surplus on road repairs:

South Carolina’s $87 million surplus for the year that ended June 30 is good news not simply - or even primarily - because it gives state legislators more money to spend on state needs.

It’s good news primarily because it indicates that our economy is doing better than state prognosticators believed as recently as May; in all, the state collected about $130 million more than expected back in January, resulting in state revenue growth of 7 percent over the previous year.

Of course, the extra cash doesn’t hurt. Check that: It doesn’t hurt if it’s spent smartly.

Unfortunately, we are still not too far removed from a time when legislators routinely spent surplus funds recklessly, using one-time money to create new programs and fill new positions, with no reason to think the state would end up with a similar windfall the following year to continue paying those new bills. During that era, what passed for “responsible” spending of surplus and other one-time money was devoting it to parks and festivals and other pork-barrel projects that made legislators popular back home but contributed nothing to the common good of the state.

Fortunately, there’s an obvious way to spend the extra money this year, a way that nearly everyone in government and business and the public in general seems to agree on: to repair our pockmarked roads and deteriorating bridges.

And to be clear, that’s not to build new highways. It’s to fix the ones we have.

Certainly the state has other needs. Our school buses continue to fall apart because the state is years behind in replacing them. Colleges and armories and the Mental Health Department and practically every other crevice of government have rolled up backlogs of deferred maintenance since the recession, and we’re going to have to come to terms with those needs.

For that matter, some will argue that the money should be used to help the Department of Social Services hire more case workers. Gracious knows it needs them, after the way lawmakers bled that agency for years. But it doesn’t do much good to hire a case worker, spend half a year training her and then have to let her go because the one-time money that paid her salary has dried up.

What DSS needs - what the public schools and so many other agencies need - is stable, recurring funding. By definition, year-end surplus money is not that.

Of course, we need stable funding for our roads as well. Whether you believe the Transportation Department’s inflated, include-every-insane-new-project-we-can-dream-up projection of $1.5 billion a year or the House’s barely maintain-the-status-quo projection of $400 million a year, most everyone agrees that we need to spend more on roads. And most everyone agrees that officials can’t take a smart, systematic approach to fixing our roads if they don’t have some assurance that they’ll keep getting money, year in and year out.

Spending the year-end surplus on road repair and maintenance doesn’t go very far toward meeting even a single year’s needs, and it certainly doesn’t reduce the need for the Legislature to provide a permanent, stable source of revenue, which lawmakers promised to do this year but didn’t. And legislators need to be fully cognizant of that - as they allocate the surplus to road repairs, to make a small dent in the backlog.




Sept. 8

The Post and Courier, Charleston, South Carolina on regulating abandoned boats:

Abandoned boats are not merely eyesores. They are potentially deadly hazards that have proliferated in our local waterways. This menace demands a strong response from the authorities.

And while a derelict sailboat that’s been lying on its side for years near the U.S. Highway 17 bridge over the Ashley was finally removed last week, more unsightly - and dangerous - vessels remain in that river and other area waterways.

The sailboat was the first abandoned watercraft pulled from the water by a private contractor hired with a $104,000 grant from the state’s Department of Health and Environmental Control. Funding also was provided by the federal National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the city of Charleston.

Abandoned boats are particularly prevalent in the mile of the Ashley between the West Ashley bridges and the Intracoastal Waterway.

Sgt. Chad Womack of the Charleston Police Department’s Harbor Patrol told our reporter that approximately 15 such boats, ranging from 23 to 40 feet long, have been lying neglected in that stretch of the river. And while the boats you can see are hazardous, the ones you can’t see - in some cases barely below the surface - are even more of a danger.

Boat owners who fail to get their derelict boats out of the water face legal risks, too. As Sgt. Womack said, “We pursue people criminally for abandoning boats.”

The city of Charleston’s penalty for abandoning a boat is a fine of not less than $1,000 and not more than $5,000 and up to 30 days in jail. The city ordinance also mandates that “an abandoned watercraft must be removed at the risk and the expense of the owner.”

Unfortunately, however, determining ownership, and thus responsibility, is often quite difficult. That’s especially true for boats that have long been abandoned.

And getting those boats out of the water becomes a much more costly chore when they are no longer seaworthy. Some of them break into pieces during the removal process.

Plus, just as the number of functioning boats here has soared in recent decades, so, predictably, has the number of abandoned boats.

Yes, it was good to see the boat-removal mission under way in the Ashley last week - just as it was encouraging to see 12 boats removed in 2011 thanks to a $60,000 dollar grant that the city of Charleston and DHEC received.

So it would be wishful thinking to assume that occasional grant money is a long-term solution for what is clearly a recurring challenge.

Ultimately, without a firmer commitment to solving this problem, it seems bound to intensify.

Ideally, the authorities will bolster their efforts not just to remove abandoned boats, but to trace their owners in a timely manner and hold them accountable.

Effective enforcement of the law requiring annual registration stickers also would help.

Meanwhile, watch out for abandoned boats if you’re on the water.

And keep in mind that if you abandon a boat, you aren’t just violating the law and marring the view.

You’re putting people on the water at reckless risk.




Sept. 3

The Times and Democrat of Orangeburg (South Carolina) on state’s GOP primary:

It appears the future of South Carolina U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham’s presidential campaign will hinge on what happens in South Carolina.

The Palmetto State’s senior senator is not striking a chord nationally in a crowded GOP race in which the field will likely be thinned between now and the start of primary season, and certainly by early in 2016 when the voting starts.

Candidates can argue that polling numbers do not accurately reflect potential and unfairly characterize some as also-rans, but in the 2016 GOP race, they are crucial. As with the first Republican debate, the candidates with the highest polling numbers get on the big stage. Those in single digits, such as Graham, get little or no exposure in debates and otherwise.

Even Graham’s celebrated verbal sparring with GOP frontrunner Donald Trump has failed to raise his national standing. More disturbing for the S.C. senator is the campaign emphasis on foreign policy failing to lift him, as expertise in such matters is his bread and butter.

Graham must circle the wagons in South Carolina, which is among the first four states to hold primaries and which has the first primary in the South. While one might assume Graham is a sure-fire winner here as a favorite son, other candidates are not going to accept that as a given. And they should not.

Winning or doing well in South Carolina has been and likely will be crucial to a Republican candidate’s success in driving toward the nomination.

Graham is far from a sure bet in his home state. The latest Winthrop poll, conducted in April, showed Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush leading the pack here with 13.6 percent and 12.7 percent of the voters, respectively.

All other candidates, including Graham, were in single digits. Most revealing for the senator, however, are the results pertaining to the questions “would consider voting for” and “would never consider voting for.”

Trump, before his campaign became a national phenomenon, had only 18 percent of people saying they would consider voting for him. Those who would not totaled a whopping 74 percent.

But Graham’s numbers are not markedly better - and certainly give him reason for concern about his confident statement to CNN previously that he would “beat his (Trump’s) brains out” in South Carolina’s primary.

If that is to be, Graham will have to persuade more than 37 percent of people to consider voting for him. And that may not be simple, as 54 percent said they would never consider voting for the senator.

Graham came home to South Carolina on Tuesday to file as a candidate in the S.C. GOP primary. He believes the state’s voters will respond to his campaign and his warnings about failure in foreign policy.

The problem for Graham is that even if they do, gains he makes here will be chalked up to favorite-son status. Signs of strength by Trump will be painted as further reflection that he can attract GOP voters in every region.

Who will win the GOP primary in South Carolina? Trump, as we see it, is still a long shot. But Graham may be too.



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