January 2020 Update #2: The State of the State Speech

Last week, Gov. Henry McMaster led South Carolina into the roaring 20's with his State of the State speech which outlined a bold agenda. The Governor laid out his plan to move SC forward and build on the state's robust economy where the unemployment rate just dropped again to an historic low of 2.3% compared to the national unemployment rate of 3.5%.

So here’s what Governor McMaster discussed in his speech:
Governor McMaster's agenda called for additional funding for public education and law enforcement, as well as enacting tax reform that would slash the state's income tax.

Boosting Education

Gov. McMaster said, "Last year we took bold steps in education reform to empower the next generation's workforce. We invested in our classroom teachers, in rural schools, in keeping our children safe and secure. This year our continued investment must be the most significant ever."

McMaster called on the General Assembly to spend $213 million to give every SC public school teacher a $3,000 pay raise and expand the state's free, 4-year-old kindergarten program for children living in poverty to all school districts. McMaster also urged lawmakers to expand school choice, in part by allowing money sent to districts based on enrollment to follow students "to the school of the parents' choice."

This follows work we began in the House last year on education reform. As the Chair of the House K-12 Education Sub-Committee, I presided over a number of hearings where we heard from educators, business and workforce leaders as well as concerned citizens, as well as attended others held across the state. We look forward to working with the Governor on this important issue.

Prioritizing Public Safety

Gov. McMaster called for $100 million to be sent to the state's long-underfunded prisons to make them safer for guards and inmates. He also called for spending at least $60 million to raise salaries for law enforcement across the state and spend another $5 million to hire 100 new troopers. South Carolina has far less troopers and DNR officers than it did 20 years ago, while our population has grown by more than 25%.

Recent riots at several state prisons, including in neighboring counties, saw inmates overwhelm guards and take over sections of those prisons. Many counties only have one or two state troopers on duty at any given time, with no backup in sight in the case of a dangerous situation. These conditions have reached a breaking point that we cannot ignore.

Cutting Taxes

With near $2 billion in additional tax revenues coming to the state this year, McMaster called on the General Assembly to cut personal income taxes this year by $160 million for a total of $2.6 billion in cuts over five years. McMaster pointed to how successful tax reform in both North Carolina and Georgia, two of our strongest competitors, have brought new jobs and boosted their economies.

The Governor called for sending $250 million back to taxpayers in the form of a one-time check that would average $200 per taxpayer. This is a nice start, but I believe – as does the Governor – that there’s a lot more work to be done when it comes to lowering and reforming taxes in South Carolina.

Legislative Briefs
 
Budget Work Underway:   The House Ways and Means Committee has been working on crafting the next state budget for the last few weeks. While they often wait until well into February to start work on the budget, they began holdings early to get a head start on the budget. While I don’t serve on the Ways and Means Committee, I have been attending some of these hearings to keep informed, especially on issues that could affect our area.

Veterans Affairs:   Gov. McMaster has named State Representative Bobby Cox from Greenville County to lead SC's new Veterans' Affairs Department. Colonel Cox is a former Army Ranger. The Senate will hold its confirmation hearing for this appointment on Wednesday.

More Nurses:   To help meet the nursing shortage and help support veterans seeking post-service employment, the House approved a bill ( H.4404 ) that enables military medics and corpsmen get credit for their experience as they seek associate's degrees and bachelor's degrees in nursing. This bill is over in the Senate for their consideration.
 
Being Smart with $$$ : The House approved legislation (H .3199 ) that expands high school financial literacy program requirements so that they also include instruction on college and education loans, key loan terms, monthly payment obligations, repayment options, credit, and education loan debt.
 
Prohibiting Bullying : The House passed legislation (H.4403 ) that provides for a more expansive definition of "harassment, intimidation, or bullying" in schools and establishes procedures for responding to and remediating allegations of bullying.
 
Know Your Job : The House passed a bill ( H.4076 ) that requires members of state boards and commissions to sign a document that they have studied and understand their statutory duties and powers. Repeated refusal to sign the required documents constitutes grounds for removal from office by the Governor.
 
High Mileage Motorcycles : The House approved ( H.3695 ) a bill establishing provisions that make motorcycles eligible to receive high mileage tax deductions similar to other vehicles.

As always, thank you for the privilege of serving you in Columbia. If I can ever be of assistance to you, or if you have ideas on issues you want me to share with the rest of the General Assembly, please don't hesitate to contact me at  RayeFelder@SCHouse.gov .

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