Story and photos by John Temple LigonTemple@TheColumbiaStar.com
At 9:30 Wednesday morning, December 6, Gov. Mark Sanford held the 44th cabinet meeting of his administration. He noted unnecessary growth in state government for the past three years, a problem he says he hopes to put under control in the coming year.
From early 2004 to the present, state government grew by about 40%, complained Sanford. He asked Col. Russell Roark, deputy director of the Department of Public Safety and commander of the Highway Patrol, if he had ever seen an employee’s salary rise by 40% over a three-year period. Roark answered, “No, sir. Never.”
An acceptable level of annual growth in state government, declared Sanford, would be a parallel with the year’s state population growth and inflation combined.
Another statistic worrying Sanford is S.C.’s debt per capita, the highest in the Southeast. But the worst of all, as Sanford illustrated with bar charts, is the state’s underfunded health care cost commitments. The state must set aside $535,000,000 every year to meet its obligations to fund health care.
Also underfunded is the pre-pay college tuition plan, which Sanford suggested should be closed off to new entrants until the funds catch up. The current liability looking for funding is $41,000,000.
On the brighter side were the series of reports from the state law enforcement ranks. For instance, the average mileage death rate is 2.11 deaths per 100,000 miles, the 2nd lowest in state history. Percentage of injuries due to alcohol have dropped from 50% in 2001 to 40% now. Boating fatalities have dropped from 33 in 2003 to 13, so far, in 2006.
The tough times in state budgets for state law enforcement may be ending. The Department of Public Safety annual budget in 2006 was $24 million, and Sanford proposed $27.7 million for 2007. In the past three years, DPS has added 1,022 new officers. DPS Director Jim Schweitzer noted he took over DPS a few years ago when it was at its budgetary bottom, and the return to adequate staffing has been very expensive but very much appreciated.
Sam Glover, head of Probation, Parole and Pardon, shared similar sentiments. His officer corps bottomed out at 413, while now he commands more than 600.
Chief Stewart said his State Law Enforcement Division’s 20 new officers proposed by Sanford for 2007 would bring SLED’s manpower level to its highest ever.
While controlling state government growth and bolstering law enforcement at the same time, Sanford was delighted to hear from Joe Taylor, secretary of commerce. Taylor announced Global Aeronautica on Tuesday, December 5, opened its second plant in North Charleston. Global Aeronautica is expected to expand further in the near future beyond the committed $560 million and the announced jobs of 740.
The two plants will fabricate and integrate fuselage sections for the next generation of passenger airplanes, Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner.
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