There’s an economic threat to South Carolina lurking on the horizon.
While this threat to our state hasn’t received much attention, it’s a threatened round of widespread military base closings throughout the nation. Military officials and other sources believe it’s likely to happen in the near future, possibly as soon as 2015.
While that sounds a long way off, if South Carolina is to preserve its military resources, which have a huge economic impact on the state, leaders must begin laying the groundwork immediately to combat the threat of losing military bases.
One of the ways to do this is for the General Assembly to pass military-friendly legislation that some lawmakers have put forth.
The Legislature has a very good track record in this area, and I applaud its members for passing measures to support our state’s military members, their families, and their communities.
An example is continuing in-state college tuition rates for dependents of military members after members get transferred outside the state. Another provides temporary professional licenses to spouses of military personnel if they already hold a comparable license issued by another state. This bill helps spouses compete for suitable employment once they arrive, and it helps the state by increasing the availability of skilled talent.
These new laws help members of the military and their families who are stationed in South Carolina, removing some of the obstacles they would otherwise face with education and employment in our state.
As chairman of the South Carolina Military Base Task Force, which works to preserve and enhance our state’s military resources, measures like these positively impact those serving in our state.
In November, the S.C. Department of Commerce released a study showing that the military generated $15.7 billion in economic activity in South Carolina during 2011, supporting more than 138,000 jobs throughout the state.
So, let me leave you with bills that the General Assembly could pass and send to Gov. Nikki Haley to help make South Carolina the most military-friendly state in the nation.
One of the bills expands on one of the measures passed last year by allowing military personnel to receive college credit and civilian occupational licensing for courses completed and training mastered as part of their military service.
Another bill addresses active-duty service members who get transferred out of state and are then forced to rent out their homes because they cannot sell them. The bill would allow them to pay their property taxes at “owner-occupied” rates, versus having to pay at the higher “rental property” rates.
It’s no secret I’m a Republican. But this is a bipartisan cause: Rep. James Smith, a Democrat from Columbia, is often the main sponsor of bills like these that support our military, as is Rep. Murrell Smith, a Republican from Sumter. Bipartisan – that’s the way it should be when it comes to supporting our military community.
Richard Eckstrom is the comptroller general of South Carolina and commander of the S.C. State Guard.