Martin: State underfunding needed services

Charles Warner Editor

October 3, 2013

UNION — The failure of the state legislature to prioritize its spending is why so many vital services are left underfunded and why the state must continuously borrow money increasing the debt burden on the taxpayer according to State Sen. Shane Martin.

Martin, a Republican and Spartanburg County resident, is currently serving his second term representing S.C. Senate District 13 which includes parts of Greenville, Spartanburg and Union counties. The District 13 portion of Union County encompasses nearly two-thirds of the county including Jonesville, Union, and Buffalo.

In an address to the Union Rotary Club this week, Martin discussed the budgeting process of the state legislature and what he said was its failure to set priorities that address the needs of South Carolina, especially at the local level.

“The big problem is that we do not prioritize our budget,” Martin said. “We want to fund all the special interest projects first while letting our roads crumble and leaving our schools not fully funded.”

Martin said he has sought to address this problem by introducing legislation that would require the legislature to budget according to state statute. He said this would mean the legislature would have to fully fund road maintenance, education, and programs that provide funding to local governments before it could move on to funding special interest projects. By doing so, Martin said the legislature could address fully address the needs of the state and local communities.

In setting priorities, Martin said the legislature must not only provide initial funding to meet the needs of the state and local communities, but also address issues related to those services, especially where capital improvements are involved. He pointed out that when a road is widened it often requires the relocation of utility lines serving that area. Martin said this can be an expensive burden to the community where the project is taking place. He said the budgeting for such projects should not only involve planning and funding for the road widening itself, but also for the relocation of the utility lines and any other related improvements and reduce the burdens on the local communities.

Martin said that setting budget priorities as required by statute would also help the state live within its mean. By doing so, the state would have to borrow less and reduce the debt it is burdening current and future generations of taxpayers with. Under the current system, Martin said the legislature funds special interest projects first to the point where a budget crisis results forcing the state to borrow more money. While the money the state borrows may help the legislature through the crisis its created, Martin said it diverts funds from already underfunded services like roads and education.

“A dollar paid on interest does nothing for our roads,” Martin said.

Editor Charles Warner can be reached at 864-427-1234, ext. 14, or by email at cwarner@civitasmedia.com.