News accounts of the last two days report that S.C.'s Unemployment Trust Fund is almost $800 million in debt - to the federal government, no less.
Our 266,000 fellow citizens who are jobless and depend on unemployment compensation to make ends meet face the real threat of losing or having reduced unemployment checks. Our employers face the virtual certainty of a tax increase in 2011, which will cause more job losses.
It didn't have to come to this, but it has--all because of a total lack of leadership from any quarter.
Senator Vincent Sheheen was reported in the January 27th edition of The Greenville News as saying "he believes the trust fund problems then (April 2008) were well known to lawmakers."
Senator Sheheen clearly knew. The transcript of an April 2008 committee meeting shows that Senator Sheneen was told by Employment Security Commissioner Billy McCleod that:
"We've got a trust fund that's probably being close to bankrupt within fourteen to sixteen months if the trend continues. And the reason I say that is because our trust fund's down to 114 million. ...[I]t was 800 million back in 2001. The Labor Department says we ought to have at least 600 million at all times to protect it from any disasters... . And we have brought that to some attention over here."
And what did Senator Sheheen do? Absolutely nothing then and nothing since. It shocks my conscience that as a legislator responsible for screening and approving the selection of commissioners to run the agency, Senator Sheheen was told flat out that the fund was going bankrupt and did nothing--and nothing is what he continues to do.
At the time of this testimony, the transcript shows that the fund was solvent and contained at least $114 million. Now, because Senator Sheheen and the General Assembly did nothing, the fund is $800 million in the hole. Doing nothing for the past two years will now cost South Carolina to face the triple-whammy of reduced benefits to the unemployed, higher taxes for employers and a further increase in then number of jobs lost. We have had 8 years of a do-nothing governor in Mark Sanford - we simply can't afford another one.