The two candidates for governor of South Carolina went after each other fairly often–even occasionally interrupting the other during a televised debate on ETV Monday night. While both Democrat Vincent Sheheen and Republican Nikki Haley agreed that the state faces massive budget cuts, they argued about how to properly address the shortfall.
The most contentious moment in Monday’s ETV debate between Democrat Vincent Sheheen and Republican Nikki Haley came after Sheheen said Haley voted to accept stimulus funds last year. Haley interrupted him.
AUDIO: Haley interrupts Sheheen to say she voted against stimulus (0:30)
Haley did vote to accept the stimulus funds in 2009, but she voted against forcing governor Mark Sanford to accept them a few months later. Sheheen said he only voted to accept the funds so South Carolina’s share of the money would not go to other states.
One of the topics debated was how to spend money on higher education in South Carolina. Sheheen said colleges will have to tighten their belts in the short term because the state doesn’t fund them at the necessary level.
AUDIO: Sheheen–SC has “disinvested” in higher ed
Haley said the state needs to give money to colleges with no strings attached and let them decide how to spend it.
AUDIO: Haley–“That’s how you fund education”
The pair also debated whether or not South Carolina should expand it elementary education into the pre-kindegarten level. Haley said the state can not afford it, but it should encourage faith-based groups to offer it.
AUDIO: Haley–“We don’t need more spending”
Sheheen said he supports expanding into 4-year-old kindergarten in the long-term.
AUDIO: Sheheen–“I’m tired of being the backwater”
The two candidates disagreed on how to deal with the budget crunch coming next year. Sheheen said the state needs to use a programmatic budget, where programs are measured to see if they are cost-effective.
AUDIO: Sheheen–how he would organize budget
Haley said she would use zero-based budgeting, which essentially means starting the budget over from scratch.
AUDIO: Haley–“What do we have to have?”
Another issue was changing the state’s tax system, and specifically Act 388. The act passed in 2006 and eliminated the portion of property taxes that pay for schools, instead replacing it with a one-cent sales tax. When the recession hit a year later, schools lost what had previously been a stable source of funding. Haley said she would re-examine Act 388 as part of comprehensive reform.
Sheheen criticized Haley for voting in favor of Act 388, calling it an “unmitigated disaster” for both small businesses and education.
The two also sparred on whether eliminating the corporate income tax would help or hurt the state’s economy. Sheheen said the income tax is not keeping companies out of South Carolina, since it is already one of the most competitive rates in the country. Haley said getting rid of the corporate income tax would make South Carolina more attractive to major companies, especially when coupled with South Carolina’s status as a “right-to-work” state.
It was the second of three debates between the candidates. The final meeting between the two will be in Florence Tuesday night.
To see the full debate, visit the ETV website.