Real change will take compromise

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Lawmakers kicked off a new legislative session yesterday.

We hope this session will be a productive one because there is a lot of work that needs to be done to advance South Carolina into a better future. To do so, lawmakers from both parties and in both houses need to come together and make the necessary compromises on their stances on certain issues to get things done.

Last week we attended a legislative workshop sponsored by the S.C. Press Association in Columbia that united journalists and lawmakers. A number of great ideas were discussed regarding several key issues, such as education funding equality for rural school districts, tax reform and funding repairs to the state’s crumbling roads and bridges.

It was enlightening and encouraging to have an open discussion with the lawmakers who attended about what they would like to accomplish this year. While true change is not easy, it can be done.

For Barnwell County and other rural areas like ours, we believe education funding is the most important issue currently.

While not every resident attends public school or has a child in school, education affects a lot of other facets of our community. A well-educated child will be better equipped for the workforce. This is one factor companies consider when contemplating a move or expansion. This improves our community which affects us all.

Rural school districts like ours have long been left behind when it comes to proper funding. That was the premise of a 1993 lawsuit, Abbeville County School District vs. State of South Carolina.

The lawsuit was in the court system for 21 years before the S.C. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the plaintiff districts, including local ones. While a majority of the justices agreed the state has failed to provide a “minimally adequate” education for all students, true action has yet to take place.

Lawmakers discussed ideas to help rural districts during last week’s workshop. We hope they will come up with a plan of action that will bring about true change for students because our future depends on it.

There should be no difference in the quality of one’s education just because they come from a smaller, rural district where the tax base is much less than larger cities.

Road improvements are another important issue facing the entire state.

While lawmakers tried to pass legislation last year, a long-term solution was not approved. Most of the holdup hinged on increasing the gas tax, which is among the lowest in the country. Gov. Nikki Haley was particularly opposed to this notion and threatened to veto any bill proposing an increase.

With a change in governors likely since Haley has been tapped to be the country’s next ambassador to the United Nations, it will be interesting to see what happens this year. Many lawmakers – Republicans and Democrats – expressed their curiosity as well about what Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster’s stance will be since he will become governor if Haley is confirmed.

A gubernatorial change could prove to be the deal changer for many issues.

We encourage you to contact your legislator to share your thoughts, ideas and concerns on issues so they can know what the people of South Carolina want our future to look like.