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Chamber hosts annual legislative breakfast

Posted: March 21, 2014 2:16 p.m.
Updated: March 24, 2014 5:00 a.m.
Gary Phillips/C-I

C-I Web Extra: Kershaw County Council Chairman Gene Wise makes a point near the end of Friday’s legislative forum at the Robert Mills Courthouse.

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The Kershaw County Chamber of Commerce hosted its annual Legislative Forum and Breakfast at the Robert Mills Courthouse on Friday morning. Chamber Executive Director Liz Horton said the event allows representatives from the local, state and federal governments to share concerns with chamber members.

“It also serves as an opportunity for us to say thanks to all of our locally-elected officials, members of county council, city and town mayors and council members, our sheriff, as well as our school board members,” Horton said. “Also, our hospital board of trustees, we have members of that board here this morning.”

State Sen. Vincent Sheehen (D-27), who is running for governor, said the state needs a change in leadership. Sheheen said improving the state’s roads and bridges is a crucial issue and praised the cooperation and dedication of his fellow legislators representing Kershaw County in the state house.

“The reason why we have not seen anything to improve the infrastructure of the roads and bridges of this state in almost 10 years is because we don’t have leaders like these three for the state of South Carolina,” he said, referring to fellow State Sen. Thomas McElveen (D-35), State Rep. Laurie Slade Funderburk (D-52) and State Rep. Jimmy Bales (D-80). “The reason we have anti-school leadership in the government of South Carolina is because these three people and those like them, whether Republicans or Democrats, practical, independent-minded people aren’t running the show in Columbia.

“It is not leadership to have a governor who for three years has vetoed funding for public schools, for teacher pay and then in an election year say she is for public education. That’s what’s wrong in South Carolina. That will never change unless we change the people who are running our state.”

McElveen said a gas tax would raise needed funds for road improvements, but that he would only support a tax bill that is structured fairly so his district receives funding.

“We pay taxes here also. We need that funding because our roads are falling apart. This is something we’ve got to take up,” McElveen said. “Part of the reason we’re not doing this is because our governor has put us in a box on this. She has come out and publicly said, ‘no way will I sign a gas tax into law.’ It’s frustrating to me and should be frustrating to you.”

Funderburk said she appreciates the interest and efforts of local government leaders from Elgin, Bethune, Camden and Kershaw County councils.

“We need to see and know that everybody’s working together for the benefit of our entire county. We can’t do it alone,” Funderburk said. “Jobs are the most important thing we need to be working toward. That’s why I support the city and county’s efforts to increase the infrastructure. I also support the expansion of the technical college here in Kershaw County. I support early childhood education and working every way I can to increase that opportunity for young people.

“The state of South Carolina has the fourth largest road system in the United States and 50 percent of that is non-federal highways. So we can’t get federal aid for 50 percent of the roads in South Carolina. They are our responsibility. We own them. That is why it is so critical that we do something. Our state roads are a state resource.”

Bales (D-80) agreed with the others, saying a leadership change in Columbia is in order.

“We’re on a boat and we don’t have a captain,” Bales said. “We don’t have a representative governor. Don’t kid yourself. It comes from the top down.”

Kershaw County Council Chairman Gene Wise wrapped up the program, saying the budget process for the county is similar to that of businesses.

“All the things you do with budgeting as chamber members, we’re going down that same road, all of which improves our level of service and our efficiency,” Wise said.


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