Aug 16 2008
By Nathan DiBagno Published: Wednesday, August 6, 2008 2:34 PM CDT Editor
ANDERSON COUNTY – Since stepping into office in 2004, S.C. Sen. Kevin Bryant, R-Anderson, has pushed for government reform and the need to put the brakes on government control.
“Since the beginning, we’ve been pushing for reform, pushing for getting away from the good ole’ boy system,” says Bryant, a pharmacist and president of Bryant Pharmacy and supply.
And while the taxpayers’ paychecks haven’t increase much in the past few years, government has grown about 40 percent, he said.
Some of legislators’ efforts to cut taxes have been successful recently. “We’ve eliminated the lowest bracket of income taxes, we eliminated the sales tax on groceries. And that’s simply puts more money in the pockets of our consumers, which in turn grows our economy. Had we returned more to the taxpayer than we did, than certainly some of our economic problems wouldn’t be as great.”
Some reform efforts have also been successful, he said.
“We’ve did meet some of those goals, reforming the Department of Transportation, which will make is more efficient,” he said.
“I was excited to see marriage defined in our Constitution,” Bryant said, referring to an amendment that passed in 2006 that specifically defined marriage as being between a man and a woman.
Also, Bryant was one of the main proponents of a bill that requires abortion clinics to offer an ultrasound to women who are considering having an abortion.
“This simply makes that very difficult choice of a person in a very difficult situation more informed,” he said.
Bryant has called for more government accountability, and was one of the proponents in the “Truth in Spending Bill,” which would require that state agencies, counties, municipalities and school districts post online all expenditures of at least $100.
“The Freedom of Information process we have now is backwards. The taxpayer has to jump through hoops now to get information they paid for to begin with. The burden should be on the government to provide that information,” he said. “I believe that the accountability alone will save millions of dollars.”
Bryant said he was pleased that legislature eventually passed a bill to get rid of the Palmetto Achievement Challenge Test, which was often criticized for merely testing students without actually assessing their needs.
Bryant said he – as well as other legislators – initially opposed the first bill that proposed scrapping the PACT because it had a “vague description of a new test.”
In the end, legislature passed a bill that scrapped PACT without a test to replace it.
“I was disappointed that (State Superintendent of Education) Jim Rex was pushing this bill to go through, to eliminate PACT and start a new test,” he said. “I was getting hundreds of e-mails, and I would respond and tell them the whole story. They were only getting half the story.”
But education still needs more changes, he said.
“We need to deregulate education, combined with more choices,” he said.
Although he doesn’t want to spend more on education, he wants to simplify the funding process and get more money to the teachers and classrooms, he said.
If states end up having the right to choose whether to drill offshore, and if gas prices continue to rise, more people will be in favor of drilling offshore, Bryant said.
Bryant said he would be in favor of offshore drilling if South Carolina is allowed to choose, especially if doing so meant that the United States would stop relying on oil from overseas.
Meanwhile, the state should continue to give out tax credits and incentives for energy efficient mobile homes and appliances.
“We’ve got some incentives to try to push the market in this hydrogen research. It’s a long way down the road, but it probably needs to be the direction we need to go towards,” he said. “It’s perfectly safe for the environment.”
Bryant said he would also support a study committee regarding having a refinery in South Carolina.
“The easiest message is raise taxes, dump money into health care. And we’ve never seen that solution work – for any problem,” he said. “The reality in the position I’m taking is: there needs to be more market-based incentives into the health care system.”
Bryant said a tort reform bill in recent years put a limit on frivolous lawsuits against medical practitioners.
Cutting back on frivolous lawsuits against doctors and making the medical field more desirable should help drive down health care costs in the state.
“We passed a bill .. that allows small businesses to pull together to make a larger group to purchase insurance to make it more affordable,” he said.
Bryant also said he’s a “strong believer” in health savings accounts – tax-free accounts that allow individuals to save for medical expenses.
“Health savings accounts I think would be utilized much more if we could do a better job explaining to the public how it works,” he said. “It’s administered by an insurance company. The money you put into a savings account is tax free, and it can only be spent on true medical expenses, but it puts the consumer back into the picture.”
Bryant said he believes that the upcoming race with Marshall Meadors will be an interesting one. Although their political views may differ, Bryant said he has a lot of respect for Meadors.
“I have many customers that are his patients,” he said. “I have a lot of respect for the way he practices medicine. … He spoils his customers, and he pays them a lot of attention.”
But regardless of who his opponent it, Bryant said he has the same message and beliefs.
“There’s nothing new out of Bryant for Senate than there was four years ago,” he said.