Tonight, I’m proud to tell you that the state of the state is strong," said S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster near the beginning of his State of the State Address, Wednesday, from the S.C. State House.
This year, lawmakers are expected to have a $1.8 billion budget surplus. Last year McMaster initiated a plan to give tax rebates to taxpayers. He said he wants to do the same this year.
"Last year, we returned $67 million to the taxpayers in a one-time rebate check. It was well-received," McMaster said. "This year, I propose that we return twenty-five cents of every surplus dollar to the taxpayers through rebates and tax cuts. It’s their money."
He went on to say that reducing taxes increases state revenues, and called for a tax cut.
"Taxes of all kinds at all levels add up quickly – little by little – to smother growth," said McMaster. "Therefore, I ask that we cut our state’s personal income taxes by $160 million this first year, for a total of $2.6 billion over five years. This means a 15% across-the-board tax reduction for all personal income brackets, keeping us competitive with our neighboring states."
Next McMaster recognized five teachers from various South Carolina schools.He also wants to give all teachers a pay raise.
"Last year, McMaster said, "we raised the salaries of all South Carolina teachers. This year, I ask you to give each teacher an additional $3,000 dollar raise – which equates to an average 7% raise per teacher."
He said the increase would raise the minimum starting salary for new teachers by 26% in the last three years, to $38,000.
McMaster also said he wants to pledge $50 million to workforce education and explained a model for what he'd like to do in rural areas around the state.
"The Continuum. Located in Lake City," McMaster said. "The Continuum is a regional center for workforce education and training for high school students and adults. It was created through collaboration between The Darla Moore Foundation, Florence-Darlington Technical College, Francis Marion University and local businesses."
"This state-of-the-art career center provides students with training, certifications, dual credit courses, along with business incubator space."
Law enforcement was another area McMaster touched on.
"I ask that we dedicate at least $60 million in new dollars to law enforcement, public safety and first response agencies for recruitment and retention. This includes pay raises for troopers, SLED agents, wildlife officers, probation officers, firefighters, corrections officers, forestry and emergency services personnel. This will also compete the placement of a school resource officer in every school in the state."
Abortion was another topic McMaster spoke about:
“For the third year in a row,” McMaster said, “my budget includes a proviso preventing the funneling of taxpayer dollars to abortion providers like Planned Parenthood.”
He also said the legislature is “now considering two important pieces of legislation. Both will protect the sanctity of life – through heartbeat or personhood. It’s time to take a vote. Send them to me and I will immediately sign them into law,” McMaster said.
McMaster also promoted for merit-based raises for state employees.
“I am convinced that across-the-board pay raises for state employees are less effective than those based on performance, merit, success or longevity,” said McMaster. “I ask that you provide $33 million – almost the equivalent of a 2% across-the-board pay raise – and direct that those funds go to agency directors to be used for merit-based raises.”