COMMUNITY UPDATE: March 2011

Be sure to pick up your weekly copy of The Irmo News to see weekly Legislative Updates, focused on activity inside the State House. Represenative Huggins and I rotate columns each week in order to keep you informed! As always, I try to write a community update each month here on Nathan’s News to also keep you informed what’s going on here in Irmo/Chapin/Ballentine/White Rock/Dutch Fork area.

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STATE HOUSE
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With the House budget debate set to begin next Monday, March 14th, I want to focus this month on just that – the budget.

Much has been shared in the national news over the last few weeks about budget deficits in states across the country. Here in South Carolina, the direction from our voters is clear: Prioritize spending. Protect “core” government services. Reduce government inefficiencies.

A national poll taken last week echoes what you have been telling me since I was first elected. The USA Today/Gallup poll showed large majorities of Republican and Independent voters do not want tax hikes and support cuts to state government programs. I didn’t need a poll to tell me that, I hear it from you at constituent service nights, on my website, at the grocery store, on the ball fields and at church.

It appears we’ll be able to piece together a budget that would have been approximately $800 million short (if no changes from present levels of spending) by using targeted cuts, consolidations and prioritizing “core” functions. It should be noted that we will actually propose an increase in the base student cost – the amount per student that we give to local school districts – by 10.5 percent. A statement about one of the “core” functions of government: education.

Consolidations proposed thus far have been the Department of Corrections with the office of Probation, Pardons, and Parole; the Arts Commission and the State Museum with the Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism; and Consumer Affairs moving under the Secretary of State.

The proposed budget cuts 4,696 state government jobs that are vacant or have not been filled within the past 12 months. This figure may alarm many; but also will be appreciated by many more who understand that thousands of private-sector jobs (including several of our neighbors, friends and families in our community) have been lost during these lean times. It should be noted also that those jobs “cut” are not men and women told they no longer have a job. Instead these are FTEs (full-time equivalents) that state departments and agencies have not yet filled – several being vacant for up to 12 months already.

Remember, in addition to the $5.1 billion in general funds we appropriate, we also authorize two other “buckets” of funding: $9.3 billion in Federal funds (93 percent of which goes directly to schools, colleges, or Medicaid) and $7.4 billion in “Other” funds (63 percent of which is paid by parents as tuition to state colleges or paid into health care). Combined, you can see the total budget for our state is approximately $21 billion.

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YOUR MONEY
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Raising taxes to cover higher budget requests would be the easy way out. Cutting programs is not always popular. I know that.

My conservative philosophy dictates that government should live like a family – in lean times – you have to tighten your belts and spend less. That is not the philosophy shared by all of the members of the House – especially about 5 years ago when the general fund (now $5 billion) was in excess of $7 billion.

As a freshman legislator back then, I was unable to sway my colleagues to set more aside for a rainy day and not spend everything we had. In the past few years though, my ability to influence others (particularly to advance conservative, common-sense ideas) has grown, We are now seeing the fruits from that hard work that was then often overlooked by the established politicians. Fruits that will hopefully pay dividends in the future for our state. While these budget cuts will be painful in the short term, they will make South Carolina a better, more stable place to live and work in the long term.

As mentioned above, the budget is scheduled to be on the House floor for debate on Monday, March 14th and I hope you’ll contact me through this site to let me know your opinions before I cast critical votes that week.

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COMMUNITY
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New Richland Recreation Commissioner: Many know I have consistently fought for our area to have a seat at the table of this commission that oversees recreation in the county. After many years of no represenation prior to my election, one of the first appointments I pushed for was this one. I was pleased get John Ecton appointed a few years back; however; soon after that, a Senate colleague removed John (for no valid reason) and we have been without a seat for almost three years. Last week, that changed. My Richland County Democratic delegation members finally stopped blocking my attempts and I was finally able to appoint Todd Latiff to a five year term! Todd is very involved with Irmo Little League and will serve us well on the commission. Speaking of Irmo Little League, Opening Day ceremonies are this Saturday (March 12th). I hope to see you there!

New Ballentine-Dutch Fork Civic Association President: Andrew Colton was recently elected the newest (and youngest) President of the Association. He’ll bring a new energy and passion to an organziation that is always keeping an eye on protecting our way of life around Lake Murray. To learn more, read their newsletter this month!

GOP Reorganization Meetings : The Richland County Republican Party will hold its PRECINCT REORGANIZATION meeting on Tuesday, March 15, 2011 at 6:45 PM. There will be multiple precincts meeting at the same location. Please check for your precinct meeting and arrive on time. You must bring a current valid Voter Registration card to the meeting. Riversprings Elementary School will be the location (115 Connie Wright Road) for the following precincts in our area: Ballentine, Beatty Road, Dutch Fork 1, Dutch Fork 2, Friarsgate 1, Friarsgate 2, Harbison 1, Harbison 2, Kingswood, Oak Pointe, Old Friarsgate, Parkridge, Pine Grove, Riverside, Riversprings, Riverwalk, St. Andrews, Spring Hill, Springville, Waldon, Westminster, Whitewell.

2011 Keven Cohen Radiothon Kickoff: Join Karen and I on The Spirit of Lake Murray for a live-auction that serves as the kickoff to Keven’s Radiothon later in April. Tickets for the 3 hour cruise are $75 a person. Hors D’oeuvres and Drinks are provided. Keven’s goal this year for the radiothon is $150,000! This cruise is a great way to start that off! For Nathan’s News readers that contact me through the website and mention “Leukemia/Lymphoma Society”, I’ll add you to a list to be randomly selected for TWO TICKETS – FREE!
Columbia Marathon 2012: Have you heard? Next spring, starting right here in our community (Ballentine, Plex), we’ll have thousands of runners participating in a two-day event put on by one of the members of our community, Dan Hartley. Here’s what The State shared a few weeks ago.

JOY PROM 2011 will be held at Gateway Baptist Church on April 1, 2011. This is a prom for special needs youth. We are inviting you to participate as a sponsor. There are many levels of sponsorship. If you are interested, please email gatewayjoyprom@sc.rr.com.

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OUR SCHOOLS
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SC Teacher of the Year Finalist: Once again, Lexington/Richland School District Five is represented on the largest stage in our state! Oak Pointe Elementary’s Craig Andrysczyk is a finalist for this year’s award. A few years back, Mrs. Buffy Murhpy from our community was the state’s top winner! Stay tuned to see if Craig claims the top spot!

Applications available for 2011 Ballentine Scholarships Once again, I’m designating a large portion of my legislative salary to funding scholarships for our seniors ! Chapin, Dutch Fork and Irmo High School Counselors should have information and applications in their office for your student to complete. Deadline is April 1st, so be sure they are filling out their forms and getting everything back to be considered! NOTE: The scholarhips are open to ALL SENIORS in House District 71, regardless if you attend one of our 3 public high schools, attend school elsewhere, or are homeschooled.

Irmo Boys Basketball – AAAA State Champions! Once again, Coach Whipple and the Yellow Jackets are state champions! After a 79-70 victory of Ridge View last week, many are trying to determine where this year’s team ranks in Irmo history

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THANK YOU
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Thanks again for the privilege you give me to represent the Irmo/Chapin/Ballentine/Dutch Fork community! If you have events or people you’d like me to share with our community right here through Nathan’s News, please let me know and I’ll do my best to help!

I’m always eager to spend time with you at your Homeowners Association Meetings, Churches, and other civic events in the community! Let me know dates and times and I’ll work to be there!

Nathan Ballentine
www.nathansnews.com
House of Representatives, District 71
Richland-Lexington Counties
320B Blatt Building
Columbia, SC