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In 2011, let’s change government in S.C.

Richard Eckstrom S.C. Comptroller

It's often said that the New Year is a time for new beginnings, an opportunity for fresh starts. Typically we vow to exercise more, eat less, spend a little less time at work, develop new skills, or set some other worthy goal.

For South Carolina’s elected leaders, perhaps the New Year presents us an opportunity to step back, reflect on the true meaning of public service, and evaluate how we can make our state a better place to live.

Even during good times, those of us serving in public office -- from local school boards and county councils to state and federal government positions -- have a responsibility that is never to be taken lightly. That's even more the case in these current difficult economic times. Unemployment is high, public dollars are scarce while demands on them increase, and trust in government is very low. The stakes are high. We simply must do a better job to create a climate that allows businesses to expand and put people back to work. At the same time, we’ve got to work better to improve our schools; lower the tax burden we’ve imposed on people and businesses; and make sure that government is accountable and transparent in the way it conducts the "people's business.” Frankly, we need to modernize our obsolete structure of government in South Carolina, and we need to permanently reduce government spending which is becoming a growing threat to our personal liberties and best interests.

One of my own major goals for the New Year is to continue to improve government transparency, giving taxpayers even greater access to information about how public dollars are being spent. (Nearly three years ago I took the initiative to create a Transparency Web Site for state government, and early in 2010 we put the detailed charge card spending by state government on the Internet to give people easy access to that information). In the coming year, I'll be working with state legislators and the leaders of our state's public colleges and universities to put their spending on the Web as well. Opening the books like this creates greater accountability, reduces opportunities for waste and abuse, saves taxpayer dollars, and ensures public resources are going where they’re needed most.

I'll also continue my push to have more certified public accountants (CPAs) in key accounting positions in government agencies (not just in state government, but in school districts and in county and municipal governments as well). Qualified CPAs are trained to help thwart fraud and other financial misconduct, which safeguards the public purse and protects taxpayer funds for essential services. CPAs are also trained to accurately record, summarize, and report on the financial activity of government.

Finally, I truly believe that 2011 will be the ”Year of Reform” in South Carolina, and I look forward to working with Gov. Haley and others to bring about long overdue changes in how government is structured and operates. Eliminating the five-member Budget & Control Board, the central agency that oversees much of state government’s finances, and replacing it with an agency under the control of the governor would be an important first step. I’m a current member of that board, and it’s time for it to be replaced.

These aren’t radical changes, they’re simply common sense. Believe me, they’re badly needed to move our state forward. Let’s resolve to make 2011 the year we create better government in South Carolina.

 
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