South Carolina Governor McMaster delivers State of the State
South Carolina’s Governor Henry McMaster opened his State of the State by saying the state is in the best fiscal condition ever creating great opportunities for the state. “We have the largest budget surplus, the largest rainy day reserve account balance, and the lowest debt in our history,” McMaster said.
In November 2021 the Governor shared with the state that there were 18,000 more workers in the state than in February 2020 adding the state’s domestic product grew 10% during the COVID-19 pandemic.
McMaster criticized President Joe Biden’s administration, calling the past year “alarming and unprecedented.” McMaster said the Biden administration took aim at South Carolina’s “pro-life and pro-family policies. Governor McMaster went on to criticize the Biden Administration for the mask mandate as well.
The governor said South Carolina’s booming economy, with almost $3 billion in surplus revenue, along with the $2.4 billion in ARPA funds presents “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
McMaster said his executive budget places $500 million into the state’s “rainy day” reserve fund for the second year in a row. By saving this money instead of spending it, something he said served the state well last year, the size of the reserves would double, leaving the state prepared for “any future economic uncertainties, should they arise.”
Governor McMaster again called for state lawmakers to reduce the state’s income tax by one percent over five years. “Despite our great successes, South Carolina’s marginal income tax rate of 7% is the highest in the southeast and the 12th highest in the nation,” McMaster said.
He also called on lawmakers to re-examine issues, practices and laws he said make the state less competitive and make it difficult for our businesses and entrepreneurs to invest, grow and thrive.
The governor said no infrastructure is more in need of “big, bold, and transformative one-time investments” than South Carolina’s roads, bridges, highways and interstates.
McMaster said the state’s Department of Transportation will have sufficient state matching funds to apply for an additional $250 million in federal funds each year for the next five years, which would allow the Department of Transportation to speed the completion of local and regional projects to relieve traffic congestion, repair or replace more than 400 bridges and enhance repaving and resurfacing on local and secondary roads.
The governor touted an Education Oversight Committee report that enrollment increased 47% or by 4,600 children, adding there are 50 new private, nonprofit, and faith-based providers who have opened 66 new 4K classrooms. In public schools, there are 120 new 4K classrooms.
McMaster said since 60 percent of children in the state are served by Medicaid, he directed Health and Human Services Director Robbie Kerr to initiate an immediate review of our State’s behavioral health funding and delivery system.
He called for changes to the way the state funds K-12 education, saying it must be simplified, transparent and accountable. “State funds must follow students directly to the classroom. School districts must be held accountable for how they spend the taxpayer’s money — and graded on their results,” he said.
“School districts will receive the funds necessary to support an average ratio of 11.7 students per teacher, with an average salary of $66,524 including benefits,” he said. McMaster added in exchange every school needs to disclose transparently how every dollar is spent.
He said his executive budget also raises the minimum salary for a starting teacher from $36,000 to $38,000. He also said charter schools have seen explosive growth in both enrollment and demand.
McMaster added he is proposing $20 million be used to create education savings accounts. “Although some may say otherwise, we know that parents know what’s best for their children,” McMaster said. The Governor went on to say “They know the type of education environment and instruction that works best for their child’s unique needs.”
He called for more parental involvement in the classroom, criticizing U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland for instructing the FBI to begin investigating parents who attend school board meetings.
The Governor of South Carolina is up for re-election this year and is seeking another term. South Carolina residents will head to the polls on June 14th for the primaries.