November 22, 2019
The military has a long, established tradition in the Charleston region. Unfortunately, it’s less well-known that the military presence in Charleston is actually stronger today than it was before the Navy base closed in the 90’s. Perhaps the emergence of new economic pillars – automotive, aerospace, technology – has masked the continued stability and importance of one of our long-standing pillars.
According to an economic impact study commissioned by the Governor’s South Carolina Military Base Task Force, the armed services have a $10.6 billion economic impact every year on the Charleston region. Add in the sizable employment base of other federal agencies like NOAA, FLETC, the VA Hospital and the State Department and you’ve got an economic powerhouse.
Ensuring that our military missions and federal agencies can continue to operate effectively in the region is a top priority for the Charleston Metro Chamber. That’s why our state and federal legislative agendas prominently feature military-specific items.
At the federal level, sustainable and predictable funding is a top priority. The current environment of continuing resolutions and budget cuts has a huge impact on the ability to maintain mission readiness and make needed upgrades and repairs to base facilities.
The Chamber just returned from a quick day trip to Washington, D.C. this month to advocate alongside our federal and military partners for locality pay designation. Our region’s current status as a “rest of U.S.” pay area ignores our region’s cost-of-living reality and inhibits federal employers’ ability to recruit and retain the talent they need.
At the state level we are pushing for four big military-related items in Columbia this year:
- The Workforce Enhancement and Military Recognition Act – fully exempts military retirement benefits from state income tax. There are 31 states that have this full exemption and benefit from an influx of a highly skilled service members when they leave the military.
- Spouse Credentialing – One of the main reasons military members leave the service is while they transition from one base to another base in a different state, it is often difficult for their spouse to receive professional licenses in their field of expertise (teachers, nurses, pharmacists, etc.) as is the case in South Carolina. This legislation streamlines the process for credentialing service members’ spouses.
- Wind Energy Regulation and String Act – This legislation ensures that onshore or offshore wind energy facilities that want to locate in South Carolina do not threaten the Air Force or Marine Air Station’s mission, training or operation of aircraft or their pilots.
- Drone Restrictions near Military Bases – The FAA has regulations against drone usage near airports and airbases but no enforcement arm. This legislation allows state and local law enforcement the ability to enforce the regulations.
As you can see, the military is an important part of our state and region’s economy and we benefit greatly from their presence. The Chamber will continue to lead on important military issues and by doing so, we strive to limit any liability should there be another base alignment in the future.
Senior Director of Legislative Government Relations
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