The Honorable Ronnie Cromer is spokesperson for Newberry Notes this week to review the 2018 Legislative Session and talk a little about what is going on in Columbia at the State House. Senator Cromer proudly serves the citizens of District 18, representing all of Newberry County and portions of Lexington and Union counties.
As we sit here today, regular session in the Senate has ended for the year and the only items left to deal with is the State budget and possible vetoes by Governor McMaster. How do you sum up this year in the Senate?
Cromer: The Senate shortened this year’s session by four weeks, which led some to be concerned about the ability to get things over the finish line in enough time. What we found is that the Senate has operated efficiently. This year has been about one overarching theme – accountability. It’s often overused and rarely achieved, but this year we provided accountability to our state workers and retirees. Accountability in law enforcement, accountability with our state’s education from the top down and accountability to our state’s crumbling infrastructure.
Let’s dive into that in more detail. You have talked state employees and make sure they are taken care of. There has been a lot of fear and concern among retirees about their pension and protecting that. What did the Senate do this year to address their concerns?
Cromer: Retirees and state employee are so important to us. We have made promises to these retirees that their pensions will be protected and they should not worry about the State Retirement System. These are real hardworking people: the police officer, the school teacher and their families who do great work for the state. South Carolina is not alone in our concerns of pensions. It is a significant concern seen nationwide. We have seen it necessary to tackle this in a two place plan (bringing our current pension to solvency and meeting those promises made to ensure future state employers and develop a long term vision for state retirement system and look to insure future employees have no need to worry. I am pleased to say that the House and Senate passed a bill that share’s up the state’s pension and the Governor has signed that bill into law. That was phase one which protects the state employees. Phase two is already beginning, as we investigate, research and consider long-term alternatives.
And what about the roads? People all over the state get calls, letters, mail on both sides of the debate on the conditions of our roadways. The House and Senate both voted on both sides of the debate on the condition of the roadways to override the Governor’s veto of the roads bill. What should our readers know about the plan?
Cromer: This bill that we have passed does a few specific things that were a must in order to achieve real comprehensiveroads bill, add key reforms to the way we fix our roads and provides tax relief for those funding sustainable funding the source to fix the roads—add key reform to the way we fix our roads and provides tax relief for those who must use the roads most and would be most burdened with a user fee increase.
1) It does does raise the user fee by two cents every six years, a total of 12 cents. Around 30 percent of which is payed by out-of-state drivers. Right now, out of state drivers are essentially causing deterioration to our roads for free which is just not right. This is a nominal increase when looked at by each driver, but sends a much needed revenue to the Department of Transportation to fill potholes.
2) It adds important key accountability reforms to the way we fix our roads
It appeas that improved highway safety was a big theme from this year.
Cromer: The infrastructure improvement plan went a long way to improving highway safety for years to come. We have not ignored our law enforcement community either. We are addressing mental health and addictive disorders by providing training in these areas for our officers and safety for the community. I am pleased with the work we have accomplished and we will be focused on a number of items as well during the summer and when we come back into Session.
Margaret Brackett is from Newberry. Her columns appear weekly in The Newberry Observer.