March 31, 2015

South Carolina makes early $75 million unemployment trust fund loan payment

The South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce made an early payment of $75 million to the federal government toward the agency’s unemployment trust fund loan.

“What this means is that the loan balance is now at $120 million,” Director of Information Services of the  department,  Adrienne Fairwell told South Carolina Radio Network Monday.

With the early payment the state will not have to pay as much interest. “And saves South Carolina approximately $1.3 million in interest because the loan payment was made early,” Fairwell said.

“When the 2014 unemployment tax rate was set, the federal government estimated 1,968,209 South Carolinians were employed. As of December, 2,069,190 people were earning paychecks in the state, leading to additional tax collections,” Fairwell said in explaining the savings in interest.

In addition, South Carolina paid about $80.7 million less in unemployment benefits between January 2014 and December 2014 compared with the same time frame in the previous year.

South Carolina experienced record-high employment throughout 2014, as benefit payouts continue to decline monthly enabling this $75 million early payment to be possible.

The state borrowed $977 million from the federal government during the depths of the Great Recession to cover unemployment checks that were being paid to out-of-work South Carolinians. To date, South Carolina has repaid more than $857 million of that loan.


Gowdy: “It’s clear… Congress will need to speak with” Clinton over emails

Trey Gowdy

Congressman Trey Gowdy

South Carolina Congressman Trey Gowdy — who chairs a congressional committee looking into the Benghazi attacks — says he will meet with House leaders over what to do next after Hillary Clinton’s attorney indicated the former Secretary of State deleted all her personal emails that his committee was seeking.

Clinton has come under criticism from Republicans over the existence of the server, which is likely not covered by public open records laws. The Select Committee on Benghazi that Gowdy chairs issued a subpoena seeking her email records on March 4.

We learned today, from her attorney, Secretary Clinton unilaterally decided to wipe her server clean and permanently delete all emails from her personal server,” Gowdy said in a release issued by the Select Committee on Benghazi last week. “While it is not clear precisely when Secretary Clinton decided to permanently delete all emails from her server, it appears she made the decision after October 28, 2014, when the Department of State for the first time asked the Secretary to return her public record to the Department.”

“Not only was the Secretary the sole arbiter of what was a public record, she also summarily decided to delete all emails from her server ensuring no one could check behind her analysis in the public interest,” Gowdy continued.

Clinton’s camp and Democrats on the committee have pointed to statements from her attorney that the former Secretary has already turned over her work-related emails to the State Department. The committee has copies of those emails, but Gowdy previously expressed doubts that it was an exhaustive list. He had called for a third-party arbiter to determine which emails were public and which were private, which Clinton refused.

Gowdy said earlier this month he won’t make those emails public unless the committee has all of them. “We have no idea whether this represents 10 percent of the document production, 50 percent of the document production,” he said in a March 4 press briefing. “We in the past have not produced information selectively. In my judgment, it runs counter to a serious investigation to do so. So, no, I’m not going to produce the emails. She’s welcome to.”

The Republican congressman said his office would work with House leadership on the committee’s next steps, but said “it’s clear” Congress will “need to speak with the former Secretary about her email arrangement and the decision to permanently delete those emails.”

Mental health courts bill has widespread Senate approval

Statehouse3South Carolina legislators are looking to expand a program designed to help mentally-ill suspects who commit nonviolent crimes.

Mental health courts are meant to handle those individuals with bipolar disorder or other illnesses ensure they get quick court appearances and the resulting treatment for the opportunity to have their charges dropped.

The bill passed the Senate unanimously last week. A final vote is needed, likely as soon as Tuesday, for the measure to advance to the House.

“It gives them the option to go through the court system and be treated,” the executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness South Carolina Bill Lindsey said. “To go through a process to get them back into a productive mode of life instead of just being in jail.”

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Ted Cruz to campaign in South Carolina next week

While more than a dozen potential 2016 presidential wannabes are considering runs for the White House, so far only one — Texas Sen. Ted Cruz — has officially entered the race.

Sen. Ted Cruz speaks at an SCGOP fundraiser earlier this year

Sen. Ted Cruz speaks at an SCGOP fundraiser earlier this year

Cruz will tour the Upstate and Midlands during a two-day campaign trek next week. The Republican will start with a York County GOP town hall in Rock Hill on April 3, according to a schedule released by his campaign.

Later that afternoon, he’ll appear at The Beacon Drive-In in Spartanburg for a town hall at 4:15 p.m., then travel to Greenville for a 7 p.m. reception at The Poinsett Club with a Republican women’s group.

On Saturday, Cruz will appear in Aiken on April 4.

Details of the visit were first reported by the Greenville News.

Cruz was the first candidate of either party to officially enter the race. The pastor’s son made the announcement in an appearance at the Baptist-affiliated school Liberty University in Virginia.

His wife and two daughters will be with him on Friday, according to his campaign.

SC Big Story: Competing roads bills now on House, Senate floors

Students from the Future Farmers of America tour the Statehouse grounds last week

A roundup of what’s making news in South Carolina state government.

The House Ways & Means Committee advanced a roads funding bill Thursday, sending it to the House floor. The move came one day after the Senate Finance Committee did the same.

But both bills seek to raise money through very different means. And neither may be able to withstand a threatened veto from Gov. Nikki Haley, who has indicated she will not support increasing gas taxes without corresponding income tax relief.

The House version that headed to the floor Thursday tries to accommodate the governor by trimming the state’s 16 cent per-gallon gas tax and shifting it to a new sales tax paid for by wholesalers. In exchange, an income tax break (averaging $48 for the average filer) would be offered to offset any higher price at the pump. Budget analysts predict the proposal would bring in an additional $400 million each year.

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