August 23, 2014

Mulvaney: Western civilization needs to respond together to ISIS

Mulvaney at podium

President Obama said Wednesday that the “entire world is appalled” by Syrian militants’ beheading of American journalist James Foley and he vowed that the United States would continue conducting airstrikes against terrorists in Iraq, despite threats by ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) to kill another reporter in the days ahead.

Just minutes before the president’s speech, South Carolina Congressman Mick Mulvaney also responded to the beheading in an interview with Rock Hill station WRHI. Mulvaney said that, in the area of foreign policy, Americans can’t think that all people are basically just like us and the country has learned a hard lesson that some people are still living in the 9th century.

“They’re not going to respond to reason the way you and I would,” the congressman representing South Carolina’s Fifth District said. “They’re not going to respond to reason the way that even hardcore Democrats or hardcore Republicans would. It’s a different perspective on the world and there are only one or two things that people like that understand, and that’s power and I happen to support what the president did last week with the actions in Iraq against ISIS.”

Mulvaney said he does not agree with any president unilaterally calling the nation to war, saying Congress has a role. Mulvaney said he hopes President Obama will come to Congress with a solid plan and, if so, he will find more support in Congress than he thinks he has.

Mulvaney said he gets frustrated when world leaders say the Middle East is a problem, but look only to the U.S. to solve it. He said he was glad to see that British Prime Minister David Cameron say that, if need be, Great Britain would get involved in stopping ISIS.

“It’s a global problem. It’s a problem that all civilized nations face,” he said. “It’s not just us, it’s Western Civilization that they’re fighting against. And, if that’s the case, then Western Civilization needs to respond together. I was glad to the British take that step. We’ll see now if the Germans are willing to do something as well.”

Mulvaney said diplomats have to put the model of what the U.S. and its allies did in Japan and Germany after World War II to bed,  saying that attempts to build democratic forms of government in Iraq and Afghanistan has not worked.

“Maybe there are some places in the world that are not ready for democracy,” he said. “Maybe there are some places in the world that are not ready for Western culture, and maybe us trying to impose that on people doesn’t necessarily have a good outcome.”

Report: South Carolina collected $266 million surplus past fiscal year

South Carolina ended the 2014-2015 fiscal year in June with a $266 million surplus, $32 million more than budget analysts had expected.

In its closing report issued Wednesday, the state Comptroller General’s Office said that surplus is being deposited into a reserve fund to be applied towards next fiscal year. The news also allows state government to cover every item on a priority list that was only to be funded with surplus revenue.

However, the Comptroller General’s report also warned that the 2.5 percent increase in revenue this past year had slowed from the 9.1 percent growth in Fiscal Year 2012-2013.

In all, general fund revenues grew by $163 million over prior year’s revenues. It is the second consecutive year that the surplus exceeded estimates.

The $235 million in legislative priorities list includes more than $48 million towards debt service and reserve funds, an additional $23 million for the Department of Education, more than $14.5 million for various technical colleges, $12.4 million towards the Department of Commerce’s Deal Closing Fund, and $5 million for the future African-American History Museum in Charleston.

State Comptroller Richard Eckstrom warned that South Carolina still faces more than $25 billion in unfunded liabilities for state employees retirement benefits that will come due in the future.

Harrell: Attorney General has removed himself from investigation

House Speaker Bobby Harrell (File)

House Speaker Bobby Harrell (File)

Attorneys representing South Carolina House Speaker Bobby Harrell say the State Grand Jury has ended its investigation of him after Attorney General Alan Wilson removed himself from the case.

Wilson’s move allows him to pass future responsibility on the matter along to a Solicitor of his choice. Harrell and his attorneys have argued since January that Wilson should not be allowed to prosecute the case due to a conflict of interest. Harrell has also maintained his innocence and said the investigation against him is “politically motivated.”

Harrell’s staff sent out an email to news outlets shortly after the Speaker revealed the decision to the House Republican Caucus.

While the state Supreme Court ruled last month the Attorney General’s Office does have the legal authority to present evidence before the grand jury, a circuit judge was to consider whether Wilson could personally handle the case.

“It has also been confirmed to us that the Attorney General has removed himself from my case and appointed (1st Circuit) Solicitor David Pascoe to handle it,” Harrell said in a statement. “The Attorney General made the decision to take these actions without any consultation or communication with my attorneys or me.”

A spokesman said the Attorney General’s Office could not comment or confirm the news because the Supreme Court had ordered it “not to disclose these matters.”

Attorneys representing the Speaker have previously claimed Wilson made an implicit threat against Harrell. An aide to the Speaker claimed Wilson referenced the ongoing investigation while seeking Harrell’s support on a new anti-corruption unit at the time. Wilson denies any quid pro quo and said the conversation was not meant as a threat.

Harrell said the Attorney General actually recused himself a month ago, but the Speaker said he did not learn about the move until July 29.

“I have said from the beginning that I violated no law and have only sought an independent prosecutor free of political motives and influence,” he said in the statement. “I hope these events accomplish that.”

Several groups filed an ethics complaint against Harrell last year, claiming he misused campaign funds and abused his position as Speaker of the House of Representatives to benefit a pharmaceutical business he owns. Wilson’s office referred the complaint to the State Law Enforcement Division. The AG’s Office then turned the investigation’s findings over to the State Grand Jury in January.

Gov. Haley opposes additional loans for SC State University

SC State logoGovernor Nikki Haley has come out against $12 million in proposed loans for financially-troubled South Carolina State University.

A blue ribbon committee appointed by the state legislature proposed the loans to be paid over three years after learning the state’s only public historically -black college had a worse deficit than first realized. The $12 million in aid would be in addition to a $6 million loan approved earlier this year by the Budget and Control Board.

The committee of current and former state college presidents studied the university’s books and found it has an $18 million deficit, not the $13.6 million figure that SC State officials previously used. The State newspaper reported Tuesday that discrepancy was apparently because S.C. State needs to repay money it borrowed from a university community group to help cover previous shortfalls.

The new proposed three-year loans would include $6 million by summer 2015, $4 million during the 2015-2016 fiscal year, and $2 million the third year.

Haley said Tuesday she would not support any additional loans until the university hires a financial consultant, which was a condition of the first loan approved in April.

SC State President Thomas Elzey told WIS-TV that the Budget and Control Board is supposed to hire the consultant using $500,000 from the original loan. “(The committee) understood that we need support, but we’re not in a position to turn around and pay it back tomorrow,” he told the station Monday.

School officials have previously said they will lay off about 90 part-time or temporary employees as part of the debt recovery plan. However, that plan was approved in May, before the additional debt was discovered and before the additional loans were requested.


Officials hope to eliminate Medicaid backlog by end of month

State officials say a Medicaid application backlog should be cleared up by the end of next week.

Officials with the South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services say they were overwhelmed by more than 38,000 applications received through the online Healthcare.Gov insurance exchange enrollment back in April. These enrollees were people who believed they were eligible for Medicaid when they enrolled on the exchanges under the Affordable Care Act.

The work was first reported by the Associated Press on Monday.

Deputy Director of Eligibility, Enrollment, & Member Service Beth Hutto said the backlog should be manageable by August 22. However, she added that federal officials have not yet transferred up to 6,000 applications.

She said the agency was not prepared to receive more than 38,000 applications in a two-month period from February to April. “We had thought we’d be getting them transferred over to us in real-time (when enrollment began in November) and they would just be part of our normal workflow,” she said. “It didn’t happen that way. It was more of a large… batch that came over to us at one time.” [Read more...]