S.C. House District 120
Name: Gerald "Jerry" Stewart
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Political party: Republican
Number of years living in district: Nine years in the area, four months in the district
Family: Norma Stewart, wife; two grown children, plus three from Norma's previous marriage; 15 grandchildren
Education: Doctorate in physical chemistry
Current occupation/employer: Beaufort County councilman, District 6
Employment, military and volunteer history: West Virginia University; U.S. Dept. of Energy; Aerodyne Research, Inc.; Industrial Technologies, Inc.; Beaufort County; numerous volunteer activities with the church, community and chamber of commerce
Public elected offices: Beaufort County Council, 2007, 2011
Any unsuccessful campaigns: none
Other political and government experience: Chief Supporting Research U.S. Department of Energy
Endorsements: none listed
S.C. Ethics Commission statement of economic interest: Beaufort County Council stipend, $12,498
Campaign money raised: $10,800
Largest donors: Himself, $1,300 donation and $4,200 loan; L. Robertson, $500; P. Roth, $250
Why should people vote for you? What separates you from your opponent?
I can devote full time to serving -- my children are grown and I have no primary job to compete for time. I will make no pledges -- decisions will be made on the merits of legislation. I will listen to and respond to concerns of my constituents. I have broad experience as an educator, government employee, business executive and elected official. I am dedicated to regionalism, as demonstrated by my performance as chairman of the County Council's Governmental Committee.
What are the three most important issues you would address if elected? How?
Reforming state governmental functions and authorities to reduce the size of government and improve efficiency. Specifically:
Comprehensive Tax Reform: The current tax code is simply not equitable; nor is it efficient. By restructuring, we can lower tax rates and still increase tax revenues. Eliminating loopholes and special exemptions in the tax code would actually increase revenues, also permitting lower tax rates. For example, South Carolina collects $1.2 billion in sales tax annually, while granting exemptions of $1.6 billion to special interest groups. The legislature should eliminate all exemptions except for the most necessities, like food and medication. This alone would essentially double the revenue from sales taxes.
More efficient government will enable lower tax rates. Lower rates will attract the new businesses we need to generate economic growth. A broader business tax base will reduce the burden on homeowners. And finally, a more balanced and equitable tax structure -- devoid of exemptions for special interests -- will generate greater tax revenues at lower rates.
Education funding: Under South Carolina's Education Funding Act, Beaufort County typically gets back a disproportionately small share of the tax dollars it sends annually to Columbia. Beaufort County's Legislative Delegation worked hard last year to get us a larger share of state money. The next step is to press for a permanent change in the formula for allocating education funds.
Calculations are currently made largely on the basis of each county's property-tax base. Some counties have smaller property tax bases because they permit large industries to pay fees in lieu of property taxes. Such counties tend to receive a higher percentage of education funding dollars. In the near-term, our local legislative delegation must press for the full value of manufacturing and commercial properties to be counted in calculations of counties' tax bases. In the long-term, we need to reduce state tax rates and therefore, keep more of our taxes here, where we can support more of our education needs ourselves.
The ultimate solution is the elimination of Act 388 and restoring educational funding to the primary home owner (4 percent property). School funding requires a more stable source unlike sales tax, which is the most regressive, unstable form of taxation.
What other issues do you see as important?
Economic growth and jobs.
What specific steps will you take to make government more open and accessible to the public?
I would encourage newspapers to publish how state delegation members vote on issues similar to how votes by congress members are reported. I would support current legislative action on charges for Freedom of Information Act requests and review of ethics violations.
Have you ever been convicted of a crime (felony), been disciplined by a professional licensing board or organization or had an ethics violation filed against you?
Have you ever filed for bankruptcy, been delinquent on your federal, state or local taxes?
Are there any personal details about yourself that voters would be interested in knowing?
Having been raised on a dairy farm and family members still farming, I have a first-hand knowledge of agricultural related issues which is important for an agrarian state such as South Carolina. I was chairman and CEO of a company that I led from a start-up to become an international public company with offices in Europe and Asia with world-wide marketing.