More than 50 South Carolina mayors gathered in Columbia on Wednesday to hear from legislative leaders and talk strategy for the 2012 session.
The Association of SC Mayors held its second membership meeting at the State Museum where House Assistant Majority Leader Bruce Bannister, House Minority Leader Harry Ott and Senator Brad Hutto discussed legislative priorities and the politics for the 2012 session.
ASCM President Jeffrey Graham, mayor of Camden, noted, "This year's agenda for cities and towns is a problem solving agenda. We look forward to working with the General Assembly to help create the environment where the private sector wants to locate businesses and create jobs."
Greer Mayor Rick Danner and Anderson Mayor Terence Roberts facilitated the discussion and also reported on the legislative priorities of the Association of SC Mayors.
- Rehabilitation of abandoned and dilapidated buildings
- Local Government Fund
- Enclave annexation
- Municipal capital projects sales tax
Representatives Ott and Bannister agreed the budget, state retirement system and reform of the tax system would certainly be high on the radar of both parties in the House. In a lively discussion punctuated by divergent viewpoints and a few agreements, Representative Ott noted, "We-re going to look at the same picture but see things differently."
The idea of allowing cities and towns the same ability as counties to put a capital project sales tax to local voters got considerable discussion with a general agreement that this concept could gain some traction as an economic development tool.
Both House leaders and Senator Hutto acknowledged the state budget will have almost $1 billion in new dollars to allocate for the next fiscal year, but the requests for these new dollars will certainly outpace the available funds. By state law, the General Assembly is required to fund the Local Government Fund and two other reserve funds before any other budget allocations are made. However, over the past three years of declining state budget revenues, the Local Government Fund has also been reduced by 20 percent annually. Mayors have returning the Local Government Fund to full funding according to the law as a top priority for 2012.
Both Representatives and Sen. Hutto strongly encouraged the mayors to be vocal advocates and loud voices in the legislature reiterating the importance of working through the committee system and building relationships with legislators at home.
Following the presentation by the legislators, Rock Hill Mayor and Vice president of ASCM Doug Echols led a discussion among the mayors focused on their role in advocating at the General Assembly for issues that are important to economic development and job growth in their communities. Mayor Echols also stressed the importance of building relationships at home with residents.