An Initial Budget, Education Improvements & Fighting the Opioid Epidemic
The South Carolina House of Representatives had a busy week producing an initial state budget, moving again on education improvements, and initiating a push to fight the opioid epidemic.
For months, the House Ways and Means Committee has been gathering operating budget requests from state agencies to produce a final budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1st. Each year, House budget writers focus on funding the core functions of government and eliminating waste and duplication. Proposing and passing a balanced budget is one the most important things we do annually; these are your tax dollars and I take this role very seriously.
This year’s budget specifically addresses the needs of poor rural school districts in 39 counties which have struggled in the past as a result of declining revenue streams among many other challenges. It is incumbent upon our state to provide each child the same opportunities in education regardless of their geographic location; the South Carolina Supreme Court said as much in their 2014 ruling which is the impetus for the actions we are taking today. In this initial funding proposal, $100 million has been dedicated toward repairing, maintaining, and in some cases upgrading the environments in which our students learn. I’ll have more information on the state budget in the coming weeks.
The House also gave key support to another important education-related matter – a bill removing the State Superintendent of Education from the list of partisan elected constitutional officers, instead making it a cabinet agency under direct supervision of the governor. The measure passed by more than 2/3 and upon third reading will be sent to the Senate for consideration.
Finally, legislation was introduced this week by several House members aimed at addressing the prescription opioid epidemic in our state. You may have even seen national news reports dedicated to raising awareness of the growing problem. South Carolina is not immune. In 2013, the Inspector General released a report detailing problematic trends in our state related to drug overdoses. In 2014, a task force was assembled to develop a multi-pronged approach aimed at curbing the current crisis while also focusing on future preventative measures. Like many problems, this epidemic will not be fixed through legislation alone, but the task force did make several legislative recommendations. These steps are only the beginning and I will provide updates as progress is made.
As always, thank you for the privilege of serving you in Columbia. If I can ever be of assistance to you, or if you have ideas on issues you want me to share with the rest of the General Assembly, please don’t hesitate to contact me.