Congressman Addresses Fairfield County Council

Earmarks are a thing of the past, but that doesn’t mean counties and municipalities are being completely hung out to dry by Washington, D.C. That was the word from U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-5th District) to Fairfield County Council Monday night as he presented a brief review of the state of affairs in the nation’s capital and encouraged Council members and the public to reach out to him for assistance.

“I wish that I could come and tell you that I had my finger on the pulse of Washington, D.C., and I could tell you where I thought things were going to go in the next couple of weeks,” Mulvaney told Council. “I don’t have that feel, yet. I hear what everyone’s been saying on T.V. about more willingness to compromise and discuss things and possibly moving forward. I don’t know yet if that’s empty rhetoric or if it’s actually going to happen.”

Mulvaney, who was re-elected to a second term to Congress Nov. 6, met with Council in a work session prior to Monday’s regular meeting where the discussion centered largely around the state of federal aid to the local level. Mulvaney rehashed the highlights at the podium during Council’s regular session.

“I cannot foresee a circumstance where federal grants and aid to political subdivisions like counties and towns will go up dramatically,” Mulvaney said. “I can foresee a circumstance or two where they might drop dramatically. But really, I think what you should be planning for for the next couple of years, at least the next two years, is pretty much the status quo. Unless there is some outside shock to the economic system, pretty much you should see a generally similar approach over the course of the next two years.

“Earmarks are gone,” Mulvaney continued, “grants are not. Earmarks and grants are not the same thing. Competitive grants, where we actually try to apply for them without political influence but with some political support, are very much alive and well, and something we participate in a lot with my office on a regular basis.”

Mulvaney said Council, or the public, should feel free to call his Rock Hill office at 803-327-1114, his cell phone at 803-246-1001, or his Washington office at 202-225-5501 if they needed assistance.

“The office we run in Rock Hill is not a political operation,” Mulvaney assured Council. “The office in D.C. is not a political operation. We do not ask if you are a Democrat or a Republican. We do not even ask you if you have voted. We are in the constituent service business.”

Addressing another looming political concern, Terry Vickers, President of the Fairfield County Chamber of Commerce, asked Council for a letter of support to be sent to Washington encouraging President Barack Obama and budget axe wielders to spare Midlands area military bases from potential cuts.

Fort Jackson in Columbia is the largest Army training facility in the nation, Vickers said, and Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter is home to the Third Army. These bases represent an economic impact of some $7.1 billion in the Midlands, Vickers said, including revenue from local businesses generated by the troops and their families, as well as the associated supporting civilian jobs.

“The President is looking at cuts to our defense spending,” Vickers said. “What I am asking from County Council tonight is your consideration of a resolution and also letters to our delegation to let them know how strongly we feel that we do not need to have the impact of sequestration (withdrawal/retirement), the defense cuts, at our Midlands’ bases.”

Vice Chairman Dwayne Perry said he was skeptical of any suggestion that Washington might shut down its largest Army training facility.

“I clearly don’t see how our president would make that kind of decision,” Perry said, “and I don’t think our congress or anyone else would let him do that.”

“I feel the same way,” Vickers said, “but I would really feel more comfortable having that cushion of support there letting whomever has the red pen know that we stand united with our military bases and what they can do for us and what we can do for them.”

David Ferguson, Council Chairman, instructed County Administrator Phil Hinely to look over the draft letter Vickers had provided and make it available to Council for their signatures at the next regular meeting.

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