Barwick Means Business

A few months ago, for the first time in my life, I felt like a hypocrite.

I spent a lot time talking with friends, neighbors, and business associates about the problems facing our state, and how no one in Columbia seemed to be doing much to fix them. But then I realized something - neither was I.

I was sitting back watching it get worse. So I decided to do something about it, by running for state Senate. More than anything else, Columbia needs people with a strong business background to not just identify problems, but to come up with business-based ways - rather than politically-driven ways - to fix those problems.

Any businessman knows that to be successful, you have to have a business plan. So I am approaching this candidacy much like I approach business: putting forward a clear vision, with a clear plan for getting there. This is important not only for letting you know what you're voting for, but also so you hold me accountable for delivering on these ideas:

Constituent service
You've heard of "Potomac Fever," where a well-intentioned person goes to Washington and suddenly starts behaving like "one of them" instead of "one of us." There's a similar phenomenon in Columbia, that I call "Congaree Fever." For a lot of folks, as soon as they get on the Columbia side of the Congaree, a different mentality takes hold.

The biggest problem with government is that politicians are catering to lobbyists and special interest groups instead of their constituents. If you elect me to represent you to the Senate, I pledge to always remember that this seat belongs to you, not to me. Once elected, I will:

  • Provide monthly constituent update emails
  • Hold open office hours once per week in the district
  • Provide a publicly-available email address, rather than making you fill out a form to get a message to me
  • Offer an "annual report" to my constituents each year to let them know exactly how our time in Columbia was spent
  • Promise an unwavering commitment to making sure state government works for you, not against you

Spending and budgeting reform
For too long in state government, what politicians spend is only limited by how much of your money they take. Without restraints on the amount of new spending each year, government is subject to the boom and bust cycle of the economy. That kind of unpredictability is bad for taxpayers and the people served by government.

I want to bring a business perspective to budgeting. First, we have to get away from the boom-bust method of budgeting. In a good year, we need to take excess revenue and put it away for a rainy day, or re-invest it in the economy. In addition, we have to end the practice of bureaucracies using your tax dollars to beg for more tax dollars. Once elected, I will support:

  • Capping spending increases to no more than population plus inflation over the previous year while taking excess and investing in economic development or returning it to taxpayers
  • "Zero-based budgeting," a requirement that spending start at zero each year rather than simply building increases on top of last year's spending
  • "Activity-based budgeting," a requirement that agencies submit "activity reports" of exactly what activities your tax dollars are paying for, and whether there are achieving the desired results - not unlike a shareholders' report in private business
  • A ban on taxpayer-funded lobbyists

Tax Reform
Nowhere is the influence of special interests and lobbyists more evident than in our tax code. We need to literally throw out the current tax code, and start over with the following ideas and principles in mind:

  • Lower personal and corporate income tax rates to make us more competitive with our peers in the Southeast
  • Incorporate ideas from the Fair Tax and the Flat tax to make the overall tax structure flatter, fairer and simpler
  • Reform property taxes so that private businesses and manufacturers don't bear the brunt local government tax increases

Government Restructuring
When you look at the organizational chart of a private business or the military, it looks like an orderly pyramid. The boss or commander is at the top, and there is an orderly progression for both responsibility and accountability. The organizations chart for South Carolina, by contrast, looks like a cross between a spider web and a plate of spaghetti. Independent boards and commission, duplicative agency functions, and a complete lack of oversight. The end result is a government that doesn't serve constituents or taxpayers well. I will support:

  • Eliminating the Budget and Control Board
  • Consolidating agencies with similar functions to reduce administrative overlap
  • Eliminate or consolidate independent Boards with similar functions
  • Create a "Sunset Law" that automatically eliminates boards that have outlived their original function or mandate
  • Create legislative oversight panels to provide year-round oversight, not just during budget hearings
  • Have Governor and Lieutenant. Governor run on same ticket
  • Have all elected officials enter into the state retirement system, why have two retirement plans?

Ethics Reform
One reason government is so dysfunctional is that a small, powerful group of lobbyists and other heavy-hitters have a level of access to lawmakers that everyday citizens don't have. In business, ideas win or lose based on being good or bad ideas. In Columbia, ideas win or lose based on who has the best lobbyist. And oftentimes, those lobbyists are former legislators and other insiders who know all the tricks of the trade. All of this is compounded by the fact that there are no term limits in Columbia, and legislators can spend a lifetime gaining influence over the process, while at the same time becoming more and more disconnected from their constituents.

We have to get control of the special interests so that they don't control Columbia. My proposal is to:

  • Place a ban of four years on former legislators coming back to lobby the legislature
  • Eliminate the shroud of secrecy over ethics investigations, and put an end to the practice of Senators and House members investigating their own for ethics allegations
  • Require all elected officials to report all sources of income online
  • Place term limits on House members, Senators, and statewide elected officers
  • End the practice of lawyer-legislators practicing in front of judges and commissions appointed by the legislature while serving in office

Education Reform
Every time we try to improve education with a creative strategy, the education establishment and special interests go crazy. We aren't going to fix education by catering to those groups - we will fix education only by a laser-like focus on students and parents. We have to reward administrators and teachers who are performing well, and get rid of those performing poorly. We also need to create avenues for educators to innovate when it comes to educational venues, and provide students options for taking advantage of those opportunities. My plan is to:

  • We need to implement a system that rewards good teachers
  • Throw out the complicated educational funding system, and tie funding directly to students rather than to programs
  • Create a robust number of options in the public school system, including more charter schools, vocational education programs, and public-school choice
  • Implement NEEDS-BASED scholarships so that disadvantaged students in failing schools have additional options.