Senate District 2 Candidates Debate Cuts, Doodle Line
Sen. Larry Martin and challenger, petition candidate Rex Rice, touch on number of issues during League of Women Voters of the Clemson Area Candidate Forum.
Voters had another chance to hear directly from the two men vying to represent District 2 in the state Senate.
Incumbent Sen. Larry Martin and his challenger Rex Rice participated in a candidate forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters of the Clemson Area.
The candidates touched on a number of issues during the forum, with questions provided by the audience.
Question: Should you win this election, what current legislative issue would you most want to influence, and why?
Rice said auditing state agencies was very important.
“I feel like it’s very important for every state agency to be accountable,” Rice said. “Accountable for their programs, accountable for how they spend their money, and what effect they have on us as taxpayers.”
While in the State House, Rice said he was an advocate and primary sponsor for Sunset Legislation.
“We need to do that,” he said. “It sets a date for every state agency to close its doors. Prior to that, there’s a private/public partnership audit. You go through that agency and determine whether they’re doing the right job or the wrong job and what they need to do. Then you reauthorize that agency and put them back in business – or you let the doors lock.
“I think you need to do that to be accountable to the residents of this state, to make sure we don’t put a regulatory burden or a tax burden on the taxpayers,” Rice said.
As Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Martin says he sets the agenda.
“The very first bill that will be on the Judiciary Committee agenda will be a bill to fix the candidate filing issue of this past May,” Martin said. “That was a very unfortunate circumstance.”
He said he initially agreed with the state Supreme Court’s literal ruling.
“I believe they could have harmonized the statutes” Martin said. “The web-based filing system that was passed in 2010, that was mandated, I believe they could have harmonized that statute with the old statute that we failed to repeal, and not taken a literal application of that to the extent that it did. We need to fix that.”
He said Sunset Review processes were repealed at the insistence of House leadership.
“What we decided to do is, we’re going to require state agencies to come before a standing committee of the House and the Senate … to justify their existence.”
Question: Given the House’s override of Gov. Haley’s budget cuts, what specific cuts do you favor?
Rice said he would cut arts programs.
“While we love the arts, that’s not a necessity,” Rice said. “We’ve got to fund certain things. We’ve got to be able to fund education, and we’ve got to be innovative in how we do that. The tech system is one of the most valuable resources in the state Tri-County Tech is probably a valuable, underused resource right here in Pickens County, the new campus that we’ve got. The education our residents can receive at Tri-County Tech will help them get jobs, will help bring industry to our area.
“The Commerce Park out here, some of the guys that came to the Commerce Park, brought their industries here, they went to our vocational school here,” he continued. “That’s what helped them decide to come into our area, seeing what we were doing as far as education, especially on the technical side.”
He said “every program needs to be on the line.
“We need to understand what they’re doing,” Rice said. “Are they effective? Do we really need them? Do they fall within the constitution of this state? Government is trying to be all things to all people. We just can’t do that.”
Martin said the idea that any legislator who disagreed with a budget veto was growing government was simply wrong.
“We were $450 million below where we were four years ago in general fund revenue. We had very thoughtfully, I thought, put together, as it goes through the process, a pretty good budget that had compromise involved,” Martin said. “We got all our reserve funds funded. We put $200 million in the unemployment trust fund repayment – we’ve got a billion to pay back. That saved businesses, particularly small businesses a lot of money – and large businesses too.”
He said he disagreed with the governor’s veto of the arts or wiping out ETV, saying cutting arts programs would hinder economic growth.
“We had downsized those agencies and we had provisions for them not to grow,” Martin said. “I didn’t favor eliminating them, because they’re so important to the economic vitality of this state, particularly education. Both of them played a very big role right here in Pickens County with the Hagood Mill project, which has benefited tremendously from Arts Commission Grants Program. We’ve made some changes in recent years to address that. We’ve been right frugal.”
Question: What will you do to protect property owners along the proposed Pickens Doodle?
“First of all, I don’t support the project, turning it into a bike trail,” Rice said. “I personally don’t feel like we need to have that project move forward. I don’t know how you protect the owners who live on the Pickens Doodle Trail, because you’re running through backyards. You’re in people’s private domain and I just don’t think we ought to have the project.”
“State government doesn’t have a role to play in that,” Martin said. “The contractual arrangements, whatever’s in those deeds, the property right of way requirement, whatever happens, I know there’s been talk about buying the line. I don’t think that’s a decision I ought to try to influence one way or the other. That’s a local government decision and I think I ought to leave it at that.”