Speaker Lucas: South Carolina not like the federal government
By Melissa Rollins, Editor, firstname.lastname@example.org
The topics were wide-ranging, from local revitalization to the state income tax, during the Fall Legislative Breakfast hosted Sept. 29 by the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce. Speakers were Florence City Councilwoman Teresa Myers-Ervin, Representative Jay Jordan and Speaker of the South Carolina House of Representatives, Jay Lucas.
“I wanted to talk for a minute about how South Carolina is different, maybe things you didn’t know about our great (state), things that we’re doing that don’t get publicized a lot because we have so many people who have such a negative concept of government,” Lucas said. “Obviously, I think some of that springs from government at the federal level and kind of trickles down and we get painted with that brush. Twenty trillion dollars of national debt is a fee that we just can’t fathom. I think about it all the time.”
Lucas said that the size of the federal government’s debt would make George Washington and the other founders of this nation turn over in their graves.
“Our Founding Fathers, debt just repulsed them,” Lucas said. “They did not like it and they felt that it would be the one thing that would break America’s back.”
Lucas said that while debt is piling up on the federal level, South Carolina has a AAA rating from two of the major rating agencies and a AA+ from another.
“We have to have a balanced budget according to our Constitution,” Lucas said. “Article X, Section IIV requires us to have a balanced budget, unlike the federal government. The thing that amazes me…if you look at our budget line item in the South Carolina State Budget, you will see it is $191 million. I can’t remember when a state has paid less on its general obligation debt than South Carolina. We actually paid down our debt quicker than we actually needed to.”
Lucas said that the state currently has less than five percent debt.
“There is a five percent debt limit in South Carolina and the General Assembly, we can increase the debt of this state and not have to go back to you folks,” Lucas said. “Our debt isn’t five percent; it isn’t four percent, its not at three percent, its not at two percent. It is at 1.28 percent. Before long, South Carolina will effectively have no debt. The debt we have, really, is some research university debt and some economic development debt from the Volvo project. Other than that, we have no debt; we are not like the federal government: we have a reserve.”
Though he did not talk very long about education in the state, Lucas did mention the Abbeville Lawsuit that has been winding its way through the state court system for over two decades, after be filed initially in 1993.
“The Abbeville Lawsuit continues to be an issue for us,” Lucas said. “We have actually filed a brief, hoping to get the lawsuit dismissed. I think that the progress the House and the Senate made in education has been remarkable over the last couple of years. We have work to do but that is an issue that we’ll again have to deal with and continue to deal with.”
The South Carolina Supreme Court ruled in 2014 for the plaintiff school districts, saying that the state had not done enough to ensure that all South Carolina students receive a ‘minimally adequate education.’ State lawmakers have been fighting the decision.