Gov. Nikki Haley highlighted road funding, student loan funding for teachers in rural districts, and a worker training program in her fifth State of the State address given before the General Assembly on Wednesday.
Her road funding plan would raise the state’s 16-cents-per-gallon gas tax by 10 cents over the next three years in exchange for restructuring the Transportation Department and for a reduction of the income tax rate from 7 percent to 5 percent over the next decade. She said she would not approve an overall tax increase.
The statement is a move away from previous comments that she would veto any gas tax increase.
Democrats remarked after the assembly that her proposal didn’t go far enough in addressing the state’s annual $1.47 billion funding gap for roads.
Haley mentioned the words, tax and jobs more than 20 times each in her address.
A worker training program, dubbed SUCCEED, would pay for workers training. Under Haley’s plan, once workers find a job they trained for, they would reimburse the state.
Haley mentioned “teach” or “teachers” more than 25 times, touting student loan reimbursement programs aimed at drawing teachers to rural school districts. Teachers would get—
-up to four years of paid tuition at a state school if they commit to teaching in their underserved district after graduation
-contribution to loan repayment if they commit to teaching in a rural district
-a pay raise to the level of a teacher with at least five years of experience if they have less than five years of experience and teach in an eligible district
-tuition coverage for graduate school at a state school if they teach in a rural or underserved district
Haley also criticized unions and their role in the state.
And she championed needed changes in leadership at the Department of Social Services. Haley appointed Susan Alford in December after embattled former director, Lillian Koller resigned her post last summer. Alford was just the person needed to bring positive change to the agency, according to Haley.
She briefly touched on ethics, calling for lawmakers to restore public trust. Several ethics reform proposals are before the House and Senate. Lawmakers plan to debate ethics reform later in January.
Democrats said after her speech that they wished she had spoken more about health care and rural hospitals faced with having to close.
Read the full text of Haley’s address here.