The Senate is getting closer to starting budget deliberations in their chamber. Last week, lawmakers heard from Frank Rainwater, the executive director of the South Carolina Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office, about the state’s economic health.
Rainwater told senators the state will have a smaller workforce in the next three years and is on track to have more seniors over the age of 65 than people under the age of 18. The decline is set to coincide with a slowdown in the economy once federal funding tapers off.
And after weeks of questioning and a $3.5 billion accounting debacle, SC Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom announced his resignation.
Let’s dive into what happened.
SC will need more workers to support 6 million residents in 2030
South Carolina is expected to have nearly 6 million residents by 2030 and a significant portion of that population is expected to be seniors as more retirees move into the state.
The state workforce age population declined from 63% to 60% between 2010 and 2020, Rainwater said, and by 2030, the workforce age is estimated to drop below 58%. “I think the government’s going to have a challenge in finding workers over the rest of this decade,” Rainwater said.
Smaller local governments are most likely to be affected by workforce shortages. “The bigger you are the easier it may be to find workers,” he continued.
Several industries such as trade, transportation, utilities, retail and utilities, have more employees compared to pre-pandemic times. But that trend has not extended to government jobs. Rainwater said the state needed more workers to cater to the needs of a growing population.
On the House side, lawmakers introduced pay increases for state employees to attract more talent and retain the existing pool of workers. It is likely that the Senate will follow suit.
More:SC’s savings account declined in 2022. Voters to decide if state should save more
More:This week in SC politics: Explaining the proposed ‘Yankee Tax.’ TikTok ban introduced.
Comptroller General’s position could shift from being an elected to an appointed position
Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom’s two-decade career as the state’s top accountant will come to an end on April 30. His resignation comes at the heels of two calls from the Statehouse earlier this month that would have either ended in a trial or impeachment inquiry.
“I have never taken service to the state I love or the jobs to which I have been elected lightly, endeavoring to work with my colleagues, from constitutional officers to members of the General Assembly, to be a strong defender of the taxpayer and a good steward of their hard-earned tax dollars,” Eckstrom wrote in a March 23 letter to Gov. Henry McMaster as per the Associated Press.
In the letter, Eckstrom also supported switching the Comptroller General’s position from an elected to an appointed position.
Eckstrom’s fall from grace began with a widely reported $3.5 billion accounting error in the state’s financial books.
For the past decade, the financial books were double counting accounts related to higher education institutions leading to an overstatement of funds. Though the error existed only on paper and did not affect the actual cash in the state’s coffers, lawmakers were incensed by Eckstrom’s lack of oversight despite auditors telling him that his reports were challenged by “material weakness.” Sen. Larry Grooms, R-Berkeley often referred to Eckstrom’s testimony as “incoherent” and “evasive.”
More:Is the SC Comptroller General in trouble for 3.5 billion accounting error? What we know.
Other news from the week:
Anti-transgender bills: A Senate Medical Affairs subcommittee heard testimony for and against banning gender-affirming care for transgender youth under the age of 18 and barring transgender residents from being able to change the gender markers on their birth certificates.
More:SC Senate debates anti-transgender laws that ban gender identity, birth certificate changes
Doctors, parents, lawyers and advocates who oppose the Republican-backed effort said that the language of the bills raised privacy concerns.
The state’s move to ban healthcare for minors violated parental rights and the confidential relationship between a doctor, a patient and the child, said Dr. Elizabeth Mack, pediatric expert and South Carolina AAP President.
Meanwhile, supporters, which included people who had detransitioned and Christian lawyer Matt Sharp, argued the studies related to puberty blockers and hormone therapies were not conclusive.
Their stances diverge from medical opinion by leading associations, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and allege that blockers and hormones cause irrevocable change to a child’s psyche.
Though doctors, parents and advocates outnumbered anti-transgender advocates, the state’s bills mirror efforts in other Southern states such as Kentucky and Tennessee and are likely to advance. At least one bill, the ban on gender-affirming care, is expected to be advanced through the Senate before the Statehouse reaches its halfway point on April 9.
What to watch for this week in SC politics:
On March 29, 2023, Wednesday, at 9:30 a.m., a Senate committee will hear once again H.3728, an anti-CRT bill, which is also being widely seen as South Carolina’s version of the Florida “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
On March 29, 2023, Wednesday, the Senate Medical Affairs committee will meet again to hear two anti-transgender bills S. 623 and S. 627. These bills will ban banning gender-affirming care for transgender youth under the age of 18 and bar transgender residents from being able to change the gender markers on their birth certificates.
Devyani Chhetri covers the South Carolina State House and is a watchdog SC government reporter. You can reach her at [email protected] or @ChhetriDevyani.