No easy choices here

After last week’s State of the State , I predictably received a few emails asking how the General Assembly could consider cutting state dollars for “the arts” and SCETV .

Describing the situation we elected officials face during budget discussions, I have often used the simplified analogy of a lifeboat with only 3 spots available while the ship is taking water. Whom would you give those very limited spots? You can only pick three from: a disabled child, a school teacher, a policeman, an elderly lady, a doctor.

Surely, you don’t leave a disabled child behind? But what about the elderly lady? Of course, the school teacher and policeman both provide vital services in life, as does a doctor….are their lives not as important?

Such is a very primitive example of what the 170 members of the SC General Assembly face every year; and ultimately the Governor.

In politics, particularly South Carolina, we’ve seen political consultants throw everything possible at candidates. While most of it is out of line, I’ve always said our voting record is fair game. In the 2012 elections, you can bet you’ll see alot of these votes appear during the campaigns because of the increased transparency for the public to see our votes . You can also see how (in the example above), if you choose one over another, the perception will be “you didn’t care about (the other)”. That perception is sure to be displayed on thousands of mailers, flyers, phone calls and TV ads during the next campaign cycle.

If the state had sufficient funds to cover our core services, I’d certainly support “the arts” and SCETV. The reality is that we simply do not have sufficient funds. I believe the Arts Commission (which is what the debate is actually about, not “the arts” in it’s entirety. “The arts” sounds much more severe and callous when used as the item our elected officials may cut or not fund, but I digress) and SCETV can and will survive through private funding or other means that do not include designated general fund dollars or taxpayer fees.

I shared with a constituent tonight that this will be year of more difficult decisions and that many citizens/groups in our state will obviously rally behind their desired “must have” in the budget. Sadly, elected officials will make many people upset this year. I just hope we have the courage to look beyond our re-election efforts and vote for the best decisions to solve the immediate problem now, position ourselves for better opportunities later, and do our job (instead of protecting our job).

To see a sampling of the difficult choices the General Assembly faces in the weeks ahead and to try your hand at balancing our state budget, use this interactive tool from The State Newspaper . I appreciate any and all input as we continue to find almost $1 Billion (roughly 20% of General Fund portion of our state’s budget).