Ways and Means head resigns

Cooper has held seat in House for 20 years

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COLUMBIA --- The chairman of South Carolina's budget-writing committee said Friday he is resigning after the regular session ends, leaving the state House seat he has held for 20 years.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dan Cooper said he wants to spend more time with his family and business, so he can make money to pay for college for his two children and help care for his 87-year-old mother.

"I need to spend some time with them before they're gone," Cooper, R-Piedmont, said of his children, ages 15 and 11.

Cooper, the owner of a small insurance agency, said, "I need to go make some money, and I can't do it and be chairman of Ways and Means."

His resignation is effective at noon June 29, after the regular session ends. He sent an e-mail Friday to his committee members, calling an election Tuesday for his replacement on the budget-writing committee, and attaching his resignation letter. Rep. Brian White, R-Anderson, is expected to win the job.

Cooper, 50, is a graduate of Clemson University who was first elected to the House in 1990, to a seat formerly held for 16 years by his father, Milford "Dolly" Cooper.

Dan Cooper has been the chairman of Ways and Means since June 2005, when Rep. Bobby Harrell left that post to become House speaker.

"It is with some sadness that I write this letter," he wrote in the letter, handed to Harrell on Wednesday. "I have been around this institution since I was 13 years old as a member or the son of a member. However, the time has come for me to turn the page and spend more time with my family and help prepare for the future of my children."

As Ways and Means chairman, Cooper is one of five members on the state's powerful Budget and Control Board, which oversees the state's finances and bureaucracy. Its other members are the governor, state treasurer, comptroller general and Senate Finance Committee chairman.

Cooper said he is most proud of his role in economic development deals, particularly to bring New York-based First Quality Enterprises Inc. to Anderson in his home county.

The deal, announced last May, was expected to bring a $1 billion investment and 1,000 jobs.

Harrell praised Cooper for guiding the budget during the Great Recession, as the state's general fund shrank from $7 billion to $5 billion.

"He took us through two of the hardest budget years in decades and did it in a way that allowed everybody to work together," said Harrell, R-Charleston. "It took a lot of skill and diplomacy to get these budgets written in such a difficult time. ... I'll miss him."

House Minority Leader Harry Ott said he is saddened by Cooper's decision.

"He's a good friend, and I believe he's been a wonderful chairman," said Ott, D-St. Matthews.

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