Larry Martin, Rex Rice Debate Issues
As election approaches, Senate candidates addresses issues including Obamacare, abortion, public transportation and economic development.
A crowd gathered Tuesday night for the final of three debates planned and organized by PCVotes.
The final debate was held between Sen. Larry Martin and his challenger Rex Rice.
A number of topics were addressed during the debate, as PCVotes gathered questions from a number of area organizations, then asked audience members to narrow the questions down to fit the available time.
Those not able to view the debate in person could watch it on a livestream. The entire debate will available to watch on youtube within 48 hours.
Question: A portion of the State of South Carolina employee insurance is funded by the taxpayers. Under what circumstances do you believe that this insurance should pay for aborting the babies of state employees or their family members?
Rice said that subject was one near to his heart.
“When I first went into the state legislature, I took the position the money could be used for rape, incest and the life of the mother,” he said. “I then changed my position. I believe the life of the mother, only after every medical effort was made to save the unborn child, that’s the only case where I believe we ought to use state dollars.
He quoted Rick Warren’s The Purpose-Driven Life.
“In that book, Rick Warren talks about how the parents may not have planned this child – but God did,” Rice said. “God plans every child, and I don’t think it’s the right of me or anybody else to terminate an unborn child’s life, unless it’s the event where the doctor has done every thing possible to save that child and that mother.”
Martin said he’s always maintained he doesn’t agree with abortion.
“I abhor it,” Martin said. “Only allow it, in terms of public policy, in the event of saving the life of the mother, rape or incest. Those are very difficult questions.”
He said a proviso in the budget stipulates that after this year, only the portion of insurance that the state employee pays themselves can be used to pay for abortions.
“The employee portion only, the payments they make for premiums, would cover that portion of that coverage,” Martin said. “There’s a big debate in the Senate about whether as a public policy we ought to allow any state funding to be in that coverage. We had the Division of Insurance Services provide us with the information relative to how many abortions we’ve actually paid for, under the state plan, for rape and incest victims. Since 2006, we were advised that there have been none.”
Question: “There’s a great deal of disparity in our county. We have a lot of infrastructure in Easley and in Clemson, and then we have Dacusville and Pumpkintown and all those areas – limited services, limited businesses. What plans do you have for improving the economic well-being of all families in Pickens County, especially in our rural areas and bringing more services and businesses to those areas?”
“There’s not a lot of state money to encourage or create more programs in that regard and there’s not going to be,” Martin said. “The difficulty situation we face with state revenues, generally speaking, will continue for some time. What can we do? We’ve got a lot of great things going on in Pickens County. I’m so proud of this facility (Tri-County Technical College’s Easley campus.) This place here is what it’s about, in terms of getting our young people ready, and getting those people who need job skills training. This is the place where it will be done, and places like this around all around South Carolina. Our ability to get what’s called WorkReadySC, that’s important to bringing these businesses like Bridgestone, like Boeing, like the other businesses we’ve been successful in bringing to South Carolina. This is what it takes in order to provide those opportunities. Businesses will come if you can provide a ready and stable workforce, and that’s one of our big strengths right, being able to train and bring forth that workforce.”
Rice said Pickens County has lots of great attributes, including the public school system and technical college, but is lacking in infrastructure.
“We need to improve our highway system in Pickens County,” he said. “Highway 183, while there’s been improvements … 183 needs to be four lane all the way to Pickens. We’ve got the new Easley High School, we know have it out on Highway 8, and I don’t know how you get there other than a little back road. We’ve got to find the money to do that. We’ve got to get more money in our highway system so Pickens County can get that money and build roads that are safer for our people to drive on.”
He said a large portion of State Infrastructure Bank money goes to coastal counties.
“We’ve got to figure out how to get that money back up here,” Rice said. “It requires a match, so we’ve got to find that match. But we need to do down and fight DOT to get that money in for our highway systems, to improve the highway system and transportation needs in Pickens County.”
Question: “We have many wonderful resources here in this county, we have this wonderful building (Tri-County Technical College’s Easley campus), we have the Adult Education Center. But if you have no transportation, you cannot get to these wonderful places. We are dooming our young parents in poverty to continual poverty and the lack of a living wage if we do not have public transportation. Do you feel we need public transportation here in Pickens County, and how we can get that?”
“It’s difficult, because we’re a society that’s primarily driven by the automobile,” Martin said. “I know there’s been talks between Easley and Clemson with their CAT Bus system, I think maybe the Greenville Transportation Authority talked to Easley about working out some sort of agreement with downtown Greenville, that sort of thing.
“The question is the demand for it,” he continued. “I realize that there’s poor folks who need it. We’ve got a lot of buses that are used to transport seniors around – Seniors Unlimited has a cadre of vans. And I know a lot of churches do some of that. Within the gasoline tax, there’s a component – a very small component for public transportation. It goes where the demand is. There’s got to be a demand in Pickens and Easley or Liberty in order for that to come.”
Rice said public transportation has to pay for itself.
“It’s going to have to justify itself,” Rice said. “The CAT Bus system runs for nothing – you don’t have to pay to ride it. Who’s paying for it? Well, it’s on our tuition bills for our students. We’re having to pay for it. Everybody think it’s working fine and it doesn’t cost anything. It does cost things. It’s a matter of who’s going to have to pay for it.
“I don’t see Pickens County being able to afford that,” Rice continued. “We’re too rural, people are too spread out, and the usage would be way down. I think we’re going to have to rely on volunteers in our community to make something like this happen, to help people out when they need a ride.”
Question: “The recent US Supreme Court prevents the federal government from forcing states to implement Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion by withholding all Medicaid funding from any state that refused to do so. It has been reported that some SC state Republican representatives, under the leadership of Bobby Harrell, may vote with the Democrats to get the Obamacare Medicaid expansions passed in the next state, thus implementing Obamacare in South Carolina. Do you agree that no Republican should vote to expand Medicaid and help implement Obamacare in South Carolina?”
Martin said the issue is a big one and that South Carolina cannot afford any Medicaid expansion.
He said Health and Human Services Division Director Dr. Tony Keck is asking for $200 million, “under the current arrangement.”
“A $200 million increase in our Medicaid budget – we’re probably not going to have but about a $260-270 million increase in general fund revenue this next year , and that’s all there is, based on current financial estimate,” Martin said. “Quite frankly, we just can’t afford it. The money’s not there. That’s the growing part of our state budget we’ve got to get a better handle on. Dr. Keck and Gov. Haley, they’re doing everything they can do to squeeze a dollar in terms of the amount of money that’s been funded for Medicaid.
“We’ve got to create jobs, we’ve got to get the economy moving again so that people won’t be on Medicaid,” Martin said. “That’s the way we’ve got to move South Carolina forward.”
Rice said he does not support Obamacare and “I do not think we ought to support Obamacare.”
“The mindset of a lot of the legislators in Columbia is if we spend a dollar, we’ll draw about 3 or 4 federal dollars,” Rice said. “That’s where we keep driving up the federal deficit. We’ve got to change our way of thinking in Columbia. Washington is not going to change their way of thinking. They’re talking about a balanced budget sometime around 2040.
“We can’t afford that. Our kids can’t afford that,” he continued. “We’ve got to get people working, we’ve got to get people to where they can afford health insurance. And we’ve got to get the cost of health insurance down where people can afford it. A family that’s on limited income cannot afford health insurance
“We’ve got to help them find a way to purchase health insurance,” Rice continued. “But to do it through Obamacare is not the way to do it,” Rice said.
Martin and Rice will debate again at the Capt. Kimberly Hampton Memorial Library in Easley. That debate, sponsored by the League of Women Voters of the Clemson Area, begins at 7pm.