Sen. Mike Rose, running for reelection to S.C. Senate District 38, sat down with Patch and concerned voters Monday at .
Coffee with the Candidates is 4:30 p.m. Thursdays at . However, Monday's coffee changed day and venue to accomodate the senator's schedule.
The next Coffee with the Candidates is 4:30 p.m. Thursday at Coastal Coffee and features Sheriff L.C. Knight, running for reelection. .
Here is a recap of Monday's conversation with Rose:
Q: Why are you seeking another term?
I love what I do. I love helping people. Sometimes they're desperate and I get a lot of satisfaction out of helping them. I also love restructuring things and problem solving, and Columbia is a bottomless pit of problems. It's a satisfaction of improvement and it's an intellectual exercise. I have dozens of initiatives in process that would die if I weren't there. It takes timing and a certain amount of push — something that can't be done with someone new to the position. I have the skill, knowledge, initiative and persistence, and I've also built up the right relationships to get it all done.
Q: Are you an "insider"?
Yes and no. I'm inside the government, but I represent everybody — not a clique, not a segment, not a special interest. I would be an outsider for special interest groups. I represent the people but not to the exclusion of others.
Q: Unemployment insurance has spiked and is hurting small business owners, what can they do to reach out to you and alleviate the high cost?
The State of South Carolina was not collecting enough money from employers for unemployment. It then borrowed $1 billion from the federal government, and the only way to pay back that loan was to come up with the money some way. Last year, the legislature tried to raise the insurance and received backlash from constituents from sticker shock. It was such a reaction that we appropriated from all taxpayers instead of raising the insurance. I have not heard from the local chamber that this is an issue for my constituents this time around, but I encourage constituents to email me directly when issues affect them (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Q: You are on the committee addressing Obamacare, what are your thoughts on healthcare in the state?
There's a tsunami coming under Obamacare. I want three or four initiatives to come to fruition. One is S1028, which allows businesses to contract directly with healthcare providers. This is like the bill that was passed that allows businesses to contact directly with legal providers (prepaid legal services) of 2003. You should be able to negotiate for healthcare directly with the provider. I'm trying to cut the insurance companies out of the loop. Another initiative I want to see done is allowing to buy across statelines. I also want to see more free clinics offered in churches around the state. To do that, we have to cut malpractice insurance. Instead of going to a jury for standard of care, we should have doctors describe a set of criteria for standard of care. If a doctor adheres to the standard, it's not malpractice.
Q: Tell us about the pension you receive.
I served in the senate for nine years, was not reelected after a redistricting change and then took off for 11 years. I accrued enough credits to retire. It's like being eligible for social security. I did not create the system but I inherited it. In South Carolina, you chose between receiving retirement or salary, I chose retirement, which is a difference of $500 a month. I will get retirement no matter if I win reelection. But if my opponent wins, there will be my retirement pay and then a salary pay, which will cost taxpayers more.
Q: How do you want to reform pension/retirement at the state level?
In 2007-2008, a committee was formed to look at state salaries. I want to do something similar for retirement. It needs to be equal across the state, with legislators not being treated more fairly or less fairly than other state employees in the executive branch.
Q: Talk about your failed reelection campaign in the 1990s.
I was reelected in 1996. Nine months later, redistricting caused an order for new elections. I got surprised by an election just nine months after winning. I was out-gunned by my opponent and I lost. I ran again in 2008 and won. I have served a cumulative of 13 years at the Statehouse, more than any other member in our Dorchester County delegation. But I am not a career politician — I was in and I was out. I know a lot of issues that we face and I can make a big difference.
Q: What can you, as a senator, do for economic development?
A legislator is not a recruiter. If you want to be a recruiter, go work for the chamber or economic development alliance. As a legislator, you create policy. I'm a facilitator. I have six CEOs of companies previously eyeing the Navy Base now looking at Dorchester County, who have met at my home. The people that are recruiters are needed and need to work with experienced legislators. We have to combine our skills to bring in economic development. To have a freshman walk into the senate and think they are going to chance policy is ridiculous. Those people that have been in office for 30 years are going to run circles around him. It's a matter of having enough experience and knowledge to know what buttons to push and with what timing.