COLUMBIA, S.C. (WBTW) — Governor Henry McMaster gave his third State of the State address Wednesday evening, touching on the pandemic, the economy, and education.
McMaster started the address by honoring the law enforcement officers whose lives were lost in the line of duty.
“With all our hearts, we offer our condolences,” McMaster said. “We are eternally grateful for their service.”
McMaster went on to talk about how the pandemic has affected South Carolina.
“I’ve never been prouder of our people than right now,” he said.
McMaster thanked those who are essential workers.
McMaster thanked members of the AccelerateSC task force for helping reopen the economy during a pandemic and went on to criticize leaders in other states for their responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Political leaders in many states have gone too far,” McMaster said. “They have infringed on the Constitution and trampled personal freedoms.”
“We took a road less traveled — a better road,” he said. “We slowed down, but safely remained open. We never closed. Our reasonable steps of limited, measured and temporary actions allowed us to combat the virus without crippling our economy.”
“In 2020, the pandemic may have slowed us down, but not by much,” he said. “This year we have announced some of the most transformative and important economic development projects, investments, and expansions in the nation.”
McMaster addressed Boeing consolidating all of their 787 Dreamliner production to its North Charleston facility, the Darlington Raceway getting a second race, Walmart announcing a distribution center in Ridgeville, and an in-ground pool manufacturer in Marion County.
McMaster also proposed a phased-in, five-year 15% tax reduction for personal income taxes.
“South Carolina’s marginal tax rate of 7% is the highest in the southeast and the 11th highest in the nation,” McMaster said. “We must take steps to make our state more competitive.”
McMaster wants to invest $48 million to expand access to full-day kindergarten for lower-income families.
“This expansion will allow parents to choose the public, private, or for-profit childcare provider that best suits their child’s educational needs,” he said.
He also proposed investing lottery proceeds to create scholarships for students with intellectual disabilities to help the transition from high school to college and then to the workforce.
McMaster also said he would set aside $13 million in lottery funds for Education Scholarship Accounts. He also wants to give a $3,000 pay raise for public school teachers.
“COVID-19 has delayed that raise, but not my commitment,” McMaster said. “I am lifting the current suspension of teacher step salary increases. This will allow school districts to resume all scheduled step salary increases for our teachers.”
McMaster said the $3,000 pay raise would put South Carolina into a Top 25 ranking of states for average teacher pay for the first time ever.
McMaster said his proposed budget for the fourth year in a row contains a provision preventing taxpayer dollars from funneling to Planned Parenthood and other “abortion providers.” He also called for the heartbeat bill to be passed so he can sign it into law.
“Let this be the year that we further protect the sanctity of life, with the heartbeat bill,” McMaster said.
The budget also provides $13 million in new funds for law enforcement, public safety, and first response agencies for recruitment and retention.
McMaster also criticized Santee Cooper for the failed nuclear project and called for reform or dissolution.
He also called attention to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC). McMaster said the department should be split in two: health and environment.
McMaster ended the address by mentioning what he called the “desecration in our beloved Capitol in Washington.”