Healthcare, port dredging were big topics at legislative breakfast this week
The biggest obstacle facing businesses in Georgetown County in the near future is the Affordable Healthcare Act, commonly known as Obamacare.
That is what State Rep. Stephen Goldfinch said Wednesday as he addressed a gathering at a breakfast for Georgetown County Chamber of Commerce members.
Dredging the port of Georgetown and repairing roads were two other significant issues.
The first-term Republican told the crowd at Lands End restaurant “Healthcare costs are going up tremendously.”
Although the employer mandate —the requirement that all firms with 50 or more employees offer health coverage, or pay steep fines— has been delayed from January until 2015, Goldfinch said business owners are already taking steps to comply with the rules.
He said a lot of full-time workers are being reduced to part-time and “people are downsizing to get below the 50 employee mark.”
“We should focus on how to fix the insurance industry. Obamacare is not the proper way to do it,” Goldfinch said.
Senators Ray Cleary, a Republican and Democrat Yancey McGill, as well as Democrat Rep. Carl Anderson, attended the breakfast.
None offered an opinion about Obamacare specifically, although McGill briefly addressed Gov. Nikki Haley’s decision to not accept funds for Medicaid expansion.
Because of that McGill said he expects to see hospital closures. He said there will be “devastation in health care.”
Cleary, when asked about the biggest obstacles facing business, talked about area roads. He said 53 percent of the secondary roads and 47 percent of the primary roads are classified as being in poor condition. He said the cost is eight times higher to fix a poor road than to maintain it.
He said former Gov. Mark Sanford was told about the roads and the more than 1,600 substandard bridges in 2003 but he ignored them and they have been ignored for the past ten years.
One suggestion he made to fund road work is to increase the fee for renewing a driver’s license by $10.
McGill, when answering the question, encouraged more membership into the Chamber of Commerce.
“Local organizations must unite, not just talk. Do things to make a difference. You must grow yourself out of debt. Do not try to tax or borrow yourself out of debt,” McGill said.
McGill said there are 11 tourism districts in the state and more money is being allocated to each for promotional purposes. He said the Chamber of Commerce is receiving an additional $10,000, bringing the total to $115,000.
The City of Georgetown will receive $20,000.
As has been the case at any such events where the local Legislative Delegation meets with the public in recent years, the topic of dredging the Port of Georgetown is addressed.
McGill reiterated $18 million has already been secured for the $33 million dredging project. He said efforts are being made to try to find the additional $15 million that is needed.
He also said the dredging is not the only work that is needed. He said the port facility is in terrible condition and needs to be renovated while the dredging is taking place.
Although he was vague on details, McGill said he has met with an industry that said if the dredging takes place it may locate in Georgetown and export 300,000 tons annually.
Goldfinch said one way to fund the dredging is through natural gas exploration offshore. He said he believes the Georgetown Port would be a home base for exploration companies.
“Gas companies are interested in Georgetown. Charleston does not want it,” Goldfinch said. “If a good company says they are coming to Georgetown, the port will be dredged.”
He said he hopes there will be gas exploration by 2017.
By Scott Harper
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