TODAY, WE PICK a new governor, attorney general, education superintendent and lieutenant governor. We decide whether to retain or replace members of the Congress and the Legislature and county councils, statewide elected officials and county officials. And we answer several ballot questions.
Here’s a recap of The State’s endorsements:
• Governor. Democrat Vincent Sheheen doesn’t offer unrealistic bumper-sticker sloganeering. He gives us a realistic vision to move our state forward and a solid record of working across political lines to engage our most daunting problems; a pledge to be honest with us and not embarrass us; a focus on returning to the Carroll Campbell model of aggressive economic recruitment; a commitment to improving the public schools. He has done the hard work and played by the rules. He is a man of integrity and sincerity, whose word can be trusted.
• Attorney general. Neither candidate has the experience we’d like, but Republican Alan Wilson has some fairly promising ideas and prosecutorial experience his opponent lacks, and we cannot discount his experience leading troops in war. Most of all, his promise to seek out advice from across the political and legal spectrum seems central to who he is.
• Education superintendent. Republican Mick Zais understands that we must focus on the low-income children who are being left behind. He has a record of getting results, from the U.S. Army to turning around the financially struggling Newberry College. We are deeply concerned that he supports paying parents to abandon the public schools and does not support further expansion of early childhood education. But we believe he has enough potential to do good that it is worth taking the chance that the Legislature will continue to reject his bad ideas.
• Lieutenant governor. Republican Ken Ard is a pragmatist, who understands that getting 60 percent of something is better than getting 100 percent of nothing. He makes a point of collecting friends and allies from across the political spectrum, and learning from their different perspectives.
• Constitutional Amendment 1. No. Animal-rights groups are not taken seriously by state lawmakers, and hunters have no reason to worry that hunting could be outlawed. Even if they did, this wouldn’t be the answer: The proposal to enshrine a “right” to hunt in our constitution while reserving the Legislature’s right to restrict hunting is an invitation to lawsuits that taxpayers will have to pay for.
• Constitutional Amendment 2. No. This attempt to invalidate a law the Congress might pass to make it easier for unions to organize is a meaningless gesture: The federal courts have made it clear that states can’t void federal laws. Adding meaningless political statements to the constitution demeans our actual rights.
• Constitutional Amendment 3. Yes. As the global economy has made it more difficult to predict revenue collections, the 3 percent General Reserve Fund no longer is enough to ensure that we meet our constitutional mandate to close out every year with a balanced budget. Gradually increasing it to 5 percent would put us on more sound fiscal footing.
• Constitutional Amendment 4. No. Requiring the Legislature to use the Capital Reserve Fund to replenish the General Reserve Fund would give us an even larger emergency cushion, but it could reduce our ability to mitigate midyear budget cuts — which are the most destructive way to deal with shortfalls, because they must be across-the-board and can’t be planned for. That’s not a smart trade-off.
• Richland County sales tax and bond authorization. Yes and yes. Increasing the sales tax from 7 percent to 8 percent is the only realistic option local officials have to keep the bus system running; it has the backing of a large swath of business and community leaders, who pledge to make sure the County Council spends the money responsibly. Allowing the county to borrow against the sales tax revenues will let us buy when prices are low, and get people working faster.