The South Carolina Senate on Wednesday began the long-awaited discussion concerning the Employment Security Commission. Both Democrats and Republicans have said they are anxious to debate the ESC. Republicans say the agency needs restructuring. In addition, South Carolina Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom on Tuesday called into question ESC accounting for hundreds of millions in stimulus funds.
In an attempt to clarify who is to blame for the issues with the agency, Lexington County Senator Jake Knotts dug up a review of the agency by state lawmakers dating back to 2004. He says the study shows the ESC had problems even back then. He said the blame of any problems lie largely with state lawmakers. To prove his point, Knotts passed out copies of the original panel review. Knotts told lawmakers that changes needed to be made, but he warned them not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Knotts is not in favor of making the ESC a cabinet agency, a proposal some have supported. Knotts says if state lawmakers will create the right law to control the commission, it will put the changes in place to make a difference.
(Knotts on ESC MP3 4:03)
Knotts on ESC MP3 4:03
Richland County Democrat John Scott told Orangeburg County Democrat John Matthews that when Republicans are pointing blame, they should point toward themselves. Scott said that if there’s a problem with the people running the ESC, it should be noted that state lawmakers screened and elected them.
Republican Senator Greg Ryberg of Aiken said he knows some people say the organization is severely mismanaged. Ryberg says the situation has been made worst by a quarter of a million people being out of work in South Carolina.
Ryberg noted the state of South Carolina has been borrowing an average of $2.6 million a day from the federal government in order to have enough money to send out all the unemployment checks, and $3.6 million per day during the month of January.
Charleston Republican Chip Campsen said the ESC Commissioners are elected by state lawmakers and basically have 170 bosses, meaning all the members of the General Assembly. He told Ryberg that you don’t see that kind of structure in the business world.
The U.S. Department of Labor Regional Director Dianna Milhollin defended the South Carolina Employment Security Commission Tuesday against charges from State Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom that there are irregularities in the agency’s reporting of stimulus funds. Chairman J. William McLeod, who leads the ESC’s three-member commission, said the commission was surprised by the comments.
“In fact, the commission has been working with the Comptroller General’s staff and hand delivered the requested information. We had staff members working over the weekend on this matter, and were in constant contact with the Department of Labor and the State Comptroller General’s office,” McLeod says.