State budget to be addressed again June 27

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The House/Senate Conference Committee has not been able to produce a budget conference report. Our Sine Die resolution requiring that we return to Columbia on May 23, to deal with the governor's vetoes and other outstanding items, was technically in force.

The Speaker, acknowledging the lack of a conference report, accordingly gave House members an excused absence for May 23, and we will reconvene to conduct business on June 27.

Fortunately, the House Resolution (Sine Die) also articulated several things that could be finished, other than the budget and vetoes, as we had a number of things pending, and this is the end of the two-year session.

Perhaps foremost on a list of pending matters is the disagreement between the two chambers as to how to deal with the fallout over the failed VC Summer nuclear project. The House had voted to deny SCE&G the continuation of the 18 percent nuclear surcharge on your monthly electric bill. The Senate believes customers should still be on the hook for a 5 percent monthly surcharge.

On this issue, I have heard loudly and clearly from constituents, business folks and editorial boards. They are overwhelmingly against the notion of rewarding catastrophic failure, regardless of the number of lobbyists arrayed in favor of another decade or so of subsidizing the regulated electrical energy monopolies.

We currently pay, as you probably know, among the highest residential electric rates in the country. To suggest that we need to continue the surcharge in order to find another company to pick up the pieces for parent company SCANA is unacceptable. What about letting the free market decide some of these things?

Beyond the nuclear matter, the continuing budget negotiations will also decide on teacher raises, school safety, prison security and compensation for correctional officers, the reform of the state pension system, as well as aligning our tax system to the new federal law, so as not to have a de facto tax increase.

On a more local (and pleasant) topic, there will be a retirement celebration for my friend Al Stokes as he leaves the helm of the Waddell Mariculture Center. On June 15, we will gather at the Waddell Center at the end of Sawmill Creek Road in Bluffton, for a pig-pickin' and refreshments on the high bluff over the Colleton River.

The event is free, but you might want to make a donation to the Waddell Fund through the Community Foundation of the Lowcountry. Visit their donation page at cf-lowcountry.org. For more information, contact Dave Harter at daveh@ hargray.com or 843-785-4106.

To register for the event, visit friendsofwaddell.org.

Finally, my oldest has finished her exams, and is officially a senior in high school. William's soccer team at Hilton Head Christian Academy won the state AA championship on a recent Saturday in Columbia. We were also proud that each of our brood were recipients of various academic awards at the recent school recognition day.

Rose and I have become acutely aware that time is seemingly accelerating. Our oldest is 365 days from leaving Myrtle Island for the wider world. Sometimes, I still see her as the little girl who would watch her daddy on the county television channel and talk to him as he led County Council.

Weston Newton is the representative for District 120 in the State House of Representatives.

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