EASLEY — The Greater Easley Chamber of Commerce continued its Coffee with Candidates series recently in Easley with candidates vying for a seat with the Pickens County Legislative Delegation.
Candidates for S.C. Senate District 2 and House of Representatives District 5, both districts representing the Greater Easley geographical area, met in a forum May 20 to introduce themselves and respond to submitted questions. The forum was an opportunity for voters to hear the candidates on the issues attendees felt were important.
S.C. Senate District 2 candidates on hand were incumbent Larry Martin and challengers Allan Quinn and Rex Rice. Candidate Dan Joslyn did not appear. Incumbent Neal Collins and challenger Rick Tate were on hand for S.C. House of Representatives District 5.
The forum opened with a question concerning a major issue in South Carolina — addressing failing infrastructure and financing the repair and maintenance of state roads.
Martin cited his agreement with an amendment to proposed legislation to increase the gasoline tax by 10 cents to 12 cents with a corresponding income tax decrease but stated “we’ve never had a majority in the Senate and couldn’t build a consensus” to implement the plan.
Quinn stated he was “against any tax increase without doing away with waste” and proposed finding other states with a working model to emulate.
Rice was of the opinion the “SC DOT’s priorities aren’t in order” and a restructuring was needed along with a deep audit before raising any taxes for roads. Once that is complete, a gasoline tax along with a decrease in the income tax should be done.
Collins reminded voters he had voted in favor of a gasoline tax and corresponding income tax decrease two years ago, but also stated the most recent audit of SCDOT was “clean with no fraud or mismanagement.” He said he was still in favor of the tax along with an income tax decrease.
Tate also was for a gasoline tax but stated the structure must be different, instead of “the money going to the Infrastructure Bank, which handles only new construction and takes away from maintenance of existing roads” before any gasoline tax should be implemented.
Since 2008, the state’s funding of the S.C. Local Government Fund (SCLGF) has been reduced, cutting the flow of funds from Columbia to county governments even with mandates still in place. The candidates were asked if they agreed with returning to fully funding SCLGF.
Quinn was for full funding, stating “absolutely, yes,” and citing the surplus in this year’s state budget and his belief those funds should have been sent to the counties.
Rice also was for full funding as well, speaking on the needs of the county. Collins was for funding the SCLGF but cited deficits across the board in the state budget. Tate suggested new legislation was needed to address the services provided, addressing mandates from Columbia and recommending if the state government requires the service be provided “the state needs to pay.”
Martin related that funding of SCLGF was up $28 million this year and he also referenced shortfalls across the budget, not just SCLGF, reminding those in attendance that each budget session $200 million is required to be set aside for roads, and assuring voters the effort is there to “balance our needs as best we can.”
Recently the S.C. General Assembly passed a bill to aid farmers and Gov. Nikki Haley vetoed it, resulting in a vote to override by legislators. The candidates were asked if they supported the override.
Rice was for overriding the governor’s veto in support of family operated farms. Martin supported the override with his vote as the bill was for family run operations and not corporate farms.
Quinn was the lone candidate to oppose overriding the veto, citing his family’s history back to the 1800’s as farmers and the need of the individual farm to save in prosperous years and the possibility of providing funds through loans. Tate stated he wasn’t as up to date on the issue due to the time campaigning but would have supported the override.
On economic development all the candidates were for providing the support and funding necessary for the development and recruitment of new industry to the state and to Pickens County.
The discussion then turned to education and the use of technical training for students. As a group, the candidates were in favor of funding education legislation to benefit the variety of students passing through Pickens County schools.
Ethics reform for the General Assembly was addressed as well with a submitted question asking if recently proposed legislation in ethics reform went far enough.
Martin spoke of his efforts beginning several years ago to push through ethics reform, stating “we should be held accountable just like every other person is” and talked about his efforts in this session to have the investigation of possible ethics violations or complaints completed by an outside body.
Quinn stated there was “a need, for sure” and suggested term limits would take “career politicians out of the equation.” Rice didn’t feel there had been enough reform and and would “support strong reform.”
Collins stated “no matter what group you are talking about, there are always a bad apple or two” and reform should be made, especially when it comes to “dark money” or contributions that are not traceable to their source.
Tate cited the lack of a separation of powers in the state with “most of the power in the hands of the Legislature” as the issue and cited this as a “recipe for bad things when too much power is in one place.”
The primary is scheduled for June 14.
Reach D. C. Moody at 864-855-0355.