Richard Eckstrom

Timely financial reporting vital for public

Each October, many state agencies – including public colleges and universities – are required to submit to me their financial statements for the previous fiscal year. I use those statements to produce South Carolina’s financial report, which is used by lawmakers, credit rating agencies, and others to assess the state’s financial condition.

Hugo’s legacy: An economic boost amid the destruction left in the wake of a hurricane

It's been a quarter century since South Carolina felt the wrath of Hurricane Hugo, but it remains a defining moment for our state.
Shortly before midnight on Sept. 21, 1989, a category 4 hurricane made landfall near Charleston, battering our coastline, destroying homes, and downing power lines.

Thanks given for priceless American heritage

Although our nation and world are vastly different from when the Pilgrims observed the first Thanksgiving in 1621, some things about Thanksgiving have endured throughout the years.
Thanksgiving still ushers in the Christmas season, undeniably the most meaningful time of year for many of us. Families still gather to fellowship and savor a bountiful meal. And Americans still reflect on the things they're thankful for, in their own lives and in being a part of our exceptional nation.

Public school fees out of control

Cap - or Better Yet, Eliminate - School Fees
For families with school-age children, the end of summer marks a transition from warm weather relaxation to the excitement of starting a new school year filled with new knowledge to gain, new friends to meet, and extracurricular activities to pursue.
And, lest families without school-age children forget - school fees to pay.

Common sense needed to avoid the fiscal cliff

In following the ongoing circus-show debate in Washington about the so-called "fiscal cliff" our nation faces, a quote from the notable 20th-century journalist H.L. Mencken seems on point:
"Under democracy one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule - and both commonly succeed, and are right."
Don't get me wrong - I believe our two-party system has served us fairly well.

State’s top accountant urges protection of South Carolina’s credit rating

Government credit ratings might be of only casual interest to the public, but they must always command the close attention of the state’s financial officers.
State government’s credit worthiness impacts our state’s finances. High ratings mean lower interest costs when the state borrows to build things like roads and schools, while low ratings mean higher interest costs. Currently, two rating agencies assign South Carolina the highest rating possible (AAA), while a third gives our state a slightly lower rating (AA-plus).

S.C. Comptroller wants to consolidate two offices

State Comptroller Richard Eckstrom says consolidating the state's two financial offices - Comptroller's Office and Treasurer's Office -- would likely result in greater efficiency and accountability.
In a February 25 letter to Senator Larry Martin, who chairs a Senate Judiciary subcommittee studying whether to change statewide elected offices into positions appointed by the Governor, Eckstrom advocates combining the two offices as a means of streamlining costs and eliminating administrative duplication.

Charity fund-raiser gets ‘Souper’ results in state

Sunday, February 6, was a special time for our nation: the Super Bowl, one of America’s great traditions. Americans from all walks of life got together with friends and family, and for a few short hours all eyes were fixed on the same cold football field.
But while most thoughts were on football, many also took time to remember the plight of those less fortunate.

Bringing out the best in South Carolinians

January 12, 2010. Although South Carolina is more than a thousand miles away, we, too, were shaken that day by the strong earthquake that destroyed most of Haiti’s capital and left that country in crisis.
January 12, 2011. One year later, a much different day… but also a day to remember for a long time. It was Inauguration Day and I was honored to take part in the inauguration ceremony for Governor Nikki Haley. It was a time of high spirits and soaring hopes, in stark contrast to the anxiety and grief we felt a year before.

Meaningful ways we can help the less fortunate

Even in ordinary times, it's important for those who have plenty to share with those who don't have the resources to meet their basic needs. Helping others is our highest calling in life.
However, these are not ordinary times. The nation is clawing its way back from the worst recession in a generation, unemployment remains sky high, and there are more people than usual struggling to make ends meet. Many people who never dreamed they would ever need to ask for help are now having to do just that.

Online check registers for local governments

It’s Election time in South Carolina. On Nov. 2, voters from all walks of life and from all corners of the state will choose our leadership – from U.S. Senator to Governor to our local S.C. House representative.
In addition, many communities across the state will also decide on local town, city or county council races.
As Election Day nears, several candidates for these local offices have begun calling me to ask questions about a Local Government Transparency Initiative the Comptroller’s Office began last year.

Tax increases should be last resort

“Tax increase.” Two words most Americans dread.
As I sit here on a Friday night writing this community newspaper column, the local TV news is on in the background, and I can hear a report about a proposed tax increase in one South Carolina town.  Not surprisingly, many town residents are opposed to the tax increase, according to the news account. They feel that taxes are already too high, and that government officials tend to endorse spending plans with little consideration for the taxpayers, who continue to fork over more and more of their hard-earned money to their government.

Fierce contest, neighborly results

The S.C. Comptroller's Office is locked in a fierce contest.

My office is competing against the state Department of Agriculture and the state Treasurer's Office in a good-natured effort to see who can collect the most food for charity. The collected items will be donated to Harvest Hope Food Bank, a charity food pantry that serves 20 counties ranging from the Upstate to the Midlands and Pee Dee areas. Our food drive runs through mid-August, and we will weigh the donations to determine the winner.

Latest stimulus fund amounts for South Carolina

Individual federal stimulus expenditures by state agencies through the end of June are now available online.

More than $2.67 billion in federal "stimulus" dollars have passed through state agencies through June 30. To view stimulus-spending details, visit the Web site of the state comptroller, www.cg.sc.gov/scstimulus.

Last year, the Comptroller General's Office began posting monthly stimulus-spending details on the Web, making South Carolina a pioneer in providing individual stimulus expenditures to citizens online.

S.C. government needs dose of reform

There's a battle being fought in Columbia - a battle between those who want to reform state government to make it work better for the people and a "Good Ol' Boy" system that prefers things the way they are.

To my mind, government reform is an important step toward curing many of South Carolina's ills. Whenever government can improve efficiency by eliminating waste, duplication and overhead, taxpayers are able to keep more of their own money - which helps the overall economy as well as the taxpayers. And it frees up limited resources to be used where they're genuinely needed.

State earns finance award - again

The guest columnist is Richard Eckstrom, the Comptroller General of the state. The comptroller general is South Carolina's chief financial officer for the state government and handles receiving and distributing of public money. 

 South Carolina has once again been recognized for its excellent financial reporting.

The National Government Finance Officers Association (NGFOA) has presented the S.C. Comptroller's Office with a certificate of achievement for excellence in financial reporting.

Comptroller General: Appointed or elected?

I'm often asked whether I think the position of state Comptroller should be an appointed position or remain an elected one.

My answer is that it should be an appointed position. I speak from experience.

The state comptroller is the state's chief accountant. Among other things, he or she accounts for state government's collections and expenditures, establishes controls to safeguard its financial resources, and gives accounting and financial advice to state agencies and local governments.

May holds two memorial days for soldiers

May holds two important opportunities to honor those who defend our country. One usually passes relatively quietly, while the other is marked by barbecues, parades, speeches, flag-waving and remembrance.

Armed Forces Day (May 15) honors those presently standing watch in our nation's defense. It was established in 1959 as a salute to the men and women who serve in the Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard. (Each branch had previously held separate celebrations but Armed Forces Day consolidated those observances.) Armed Forces Day is celebrated on the third Saturday in May.

'...Houston, we've had a problem...'

This Saturday, April 17, marked an important day in American history: the 40th anniversary of Apollo 13's safe return to Earth.

The 1970 space mission was intended to be the third time for humans to land on the moon, but the landing was aborted because an oxygen tank ruptured. Suddenly the Apollo 13 astronauts faced the prospect of running out of oxygen more than 230,000 miles from Earth.

Stimulus should be tracked through transparency

I've long believed in the value of government transparency - showing people how decisions that affect them are made and how their tax dollars are spent.

Not only are public officials more accountable when they know their decisions will be examined by the public, but transparency can help restore the trust that many people have lost in government.

Simply put, when the "people's business" is conducted in full public view, everyone wins.

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