Gov. Nikki Haley began her State of the State address by honoring fallen heroes by name and recognizing her family. First Gentleman, Michael Haley returned in December from a recent deployment.
The House and Senate passed yesterday a government restructuring bill, a decade-long effort that some have viewed as a proverbial feather in Haley’s cap. Haley began her speech by celebrating the passage of the bill, saying the late Gov. Carroll Campbell–touted by many lawmakers as a government restructuring hero–is smiling down on this state and by declaring the Budget and Control Board dead. The restructuring bill created a five-member State Fiscal Accountability Authority, which mirrors the makeup of the “dead” board and retains responsibility for procurement and bonding. But it also creates a cabinet-level Department of Administration, which takes charge of several board functions such as human resources and state vehicles.
“Infrastructure must also remain a priority,” said Haley. South Carolinians are about to see orange cones pop up all over the state, she said, but rejected the perennial call for raising the gas tax. Haley said we will pay for infrastructure updates with budget surpluses once this year’s budget is balanced, citing a $106 million average surplus since 2005.
A bill to bring greater accountability to the Statehouse is up for debate in the Senate this week. Haley touched on that bill tonight and urged its passage. “We know that the public deserves better than the government is giving them,” she said. S.C. is one of four states that don’t require income disclosures. The legislature is also a self-policing entity, in which both chambers have ethics committees that investigate their peers.
Bamberg-born and raised, Haley encouraged an altered funding formula that would help educate the state’s neediest students, one of the big-ticket items in her executive budget. Under her plan, 20 percent more will go to students in poorer districts. She also encouraged a focus on reading, including an increased investment in summer reading programs. “A child who cannot read is a child who cannot learn,” she said. To ensure children can read by the fourth grade, her budget provides for a reading coach for every school. Haley said her plan won’t funnel money away from other districts. It provides for the poorest districts to be retrofitted with the proper technology she says they need to keep up with students in wealthier districts. Democrats awaiting her remarks have said Haley shouldn’t have put off prioritizing education to this extent until her fourth year in office.
Other highlights from the address include Haley’s mention of her jobs record, pointing out that S.C. is referred to as the “Beast of the Southeast.” About 70,000 more South Carolinians are working now than three years ago, she said. As for her call for a simpler, flatter, fairer tax code, Haley asked for support in eliminating the six percent individual income tax bracket.