Senator Graham talks jobs, grants with Darlington County officials
By Samantha Lyles
U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R- South Carolina) visited Darlington on Tuesday, November 21 to discuss local issues with county and municipal government officials. Chief among the topics of discussion were economic development, grant funding, and military spending.
County Council vice chair Le Flowers (District 5, Swift Creek Area) asked about the possibility of cuts in military spending that might affect South Carolina bases. Graham replied that there is little chance that SC installations might be in danger with the current administration’s focus on beefing up defense spending.
“We’re going to rebuild the military. That’s one thing Trump’s doing that I really like,” said Graham. “Our bases are in good shape.”
Darlington City Manager Howard Garland spoke about the reliance on federal and state grant funding in rural communities. He noted that about 18 percent of the City of Darlington’s budget comes from grant sources, such as USDA grants to replace worn-out trash trucks. Graham assured everyone that he understands how important grant funds are for small towns, and said he is fighting to keep rural grant funding secure.
“I’m not going to vote for a budget that destroys these grant programs. I’ve already told out leadership that, so I am your strongest advocate to continue these programs,” said Graham.
Regarding economic development, Graham said that with the planned Dillon County inland port and the still-not-dead I-73 (which Graham said could not be built except as a toll road), small towns need to “inventory where the growth is in the area and try to make sure you can tap into it, that your education system is designed to meet the needs of manufacturing, because that’s mostly what we do around here.”
County Administrator Charles Stewart spoke about the county’s efforts to develop industrial park sites with Interstate and rail access for potential manufacturing or commercial use. Graham agreed that such sites are needed if a community wants to take advantage of industrial growth in neighboring regions.
“If we get the inland port up and running, that takes all that activity in Charleston and starts spreading it out through the state, so get ready for that,” Graham said.
Lamar’s Mayor-Elect Darnell Byrd-McPherson asked about federal health care policy and ways that the government can improve access to affordable care. Graham said that under the Affordable Care act, or Obamacare, four states (New York, Maryland, Massachusetts and California) represent 35 percent of costs and 22 percent of the U.S. population, so he wants to “block grant the same amount of money back to the states” so each state can design systems to best meet its needs.
“Right now there are so many restrictions on funding at the federal level. Turn Medicaid into a block grant so you can get better outcomes. You can put people into healthcare homes, you can build community health care centers. Every time you get sick, don’t run to the emergency room – because that’s the most expensive way to do it – but try to make more options for health care outside of the emergency room,” Graham said.