The (Charleston) Post and Courier on prison audit, Aug. 20:

Department of Corrections Director Jon Ozmint is probably feeling a bit beleaguered these days with all the bad budget news affecting his cash-strapped agency. But he should have used more restraint in regard to a survey designed to provide the Legislature with information about working conditions in the prison system.

The Legislative Audit Council abandoned its plans for a survey of prison employees after Mr. Ozmint criticized it in a Corrections Department newsletter and an e-mail to employees. In the newsletter, he stated the survey was an effort to blame Corrections officials for prison problems. ...

The survey has been shelved because of Mr. Ozmint's interference, but the larger audit goes on. The governor should advise full cooperation as the LAC continues to review agency operations. A precedent of non-compliance could damage the LAC's ability to probe other state agencies in the future.

There will probably be critical findings in the audit, but it may well provide evidence that Corrections' problems are mainly the result of legislative neglect. In any case, the public and the elected officials who represent them have the right to know.

(Spartanburg) Herald Journal on state spending, Aug. 18:

South Carolina's comptroller general announced that the state ended its fiscal year with a quarter-billion-dollar deficit. That fact, he said, should show lawmakers the need for smarter financial decisions.

State Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom said the state ended the year $250.4 million in the hole. He used various reserve funds to make up for the shortfall, and several spending items on lawmakers' wish lists won't be funded.

State revenue in the current fiscal year is also expected to be down, which is why the Budget and Control Board is requiring across-the-board spending cuts.

None of this would be necessary in the future if lawmakers would make more sensible spending decisions. ...

The truth is that if they had held back on spending, the state budget would not be so large that today's tax revenue couldn't support it. The problem is not the 20 percent of the surplus they gave back. It is the 80 percent they spent.

Lawmakers have shown they won't listen to Eckstrom or Sanford. But they may listen to you. As they campaign for re-election, let them know you want to see more responsible spending decisions from the General Assembly.

The (Rock Hill) Herald on reducing carbon dioxide emissions in the state, Aug. 19:

Many of the suggestions by an energy advisory committee appointed by Gov. Mark Sanford appear to be sensible ways to help the state reduce carbon dioxide emissions. But we don't think the state should exclude discussions about new state mandates in addition to voluntary measures.

The governor's Climate, Energy and Commerce Advisory Committee presented a report this month that says South Carolina can release less carbon dioxide than it did in 1990 by promoting voluntary efforts prompted by incentives and laws already on the books. The group offered 51 recommendations that should, according to the report, allow the state to cut emissions by 5 percent by 2020. ...

Tax incentives and subsidies at both the commercial and residential level make sense. But the state should not shy away from reasonable government mandates. ...

Earlier this month, Duke Energy announced that it would buy 2 megawatts of electricity — enough to power about 1,600 homes — produced by methane gas captured from the old city landfill in Durham, N.C. Gas from the landfill, which closed in the mid-1990s, will be turned into electricity beginning next year. ...

Using methane and solar power to generate electricity no doubt makes economic as well as environmental sense. Nonetheless, the state mandate may also have played a role in Duke's decision to pursue these ventures.

And despite the recommendations of Sanford's panel, South Carolina would do well to emulate North Carolina in enacting similar industrial mandates here.

The (Columbia) State on funding plan, Aug. 17:

The way the Legislature distributes state education dollars does not make sense.

Funding formulas don't adequately recognize how much more it costs to educate poor kids. Tax law changes have made the formulas obsolete. They're so complex that few whose job is not to understand them do. Funding that isn't driven by formulas is tied to specific programs, some redundant, which makes it difficult for schools to target resources. Some non-formula funding is skewed toward wealthier districts. And the money flows through so many state pots that it's nearly impossible even to tell how much there is, much less whether it's being spent in the best way.

This isn't news. Legislators have complained for years about the problems. Committees have been formed to study them. And nothing has happened, because everybody has a different priority, and no one has come up with a way to fix all the problems.

But a breakthrough could be near — albeit one that could create even worse problems if legislators confine the solution to funding alone. ...

... The primary duty of providing public education lies with the state for a good reason: The education of a child in Allendale County is every bit as much the concern of a Columbia resident as it is of the Allendale school officials. We need to start acting like it.

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