A roundup of what’s making news in South Carolina state government.
Governor Nikki Haley on Wednesday indicated she would no longer oppose raising the state’s gas tax, but only if it came with a much larger income tax cut and significant changes to South Carolina’s transportation agency.
Haley outlined a proposal during her State of the State address that would gradually increase the state’s gas tax by 10 cents up to 26 cents per gallon by 2019. But that would be offset by a 2 percentage point decrease in South Carolina’s income tax from 7 percent to 5 percent.
She said lawmakers must also eliminate the South Carolina Transportation Commission, the eight-member panel which must approve spending for any construction projects.
Democrats, most notably House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford, slammed the idea as “not a plan at all” and said Haley’s conditions effectively place lawmakers in a box.
The governor also introduced a new proposal that would offer jobs skills training to help employees land jobs at small businesses and medium-sized companies. The initiative, known as “Succeed SC” is patterned after the readySC program which currently offers job training programs for large corporations such as Boeing and BMW. Haley gave only a few details of how the program would work. She did say the state will pay for a prospective employee to get training for a specific skill a company needs. That employee would then repay the state trough their paycheck after getting the job.
The governor also used her speech as an opportunity to lambaste unions, particularly the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. The IAM is working to persuade employees at Boeing South Carolina’s plant in North Charleston to form a union there. South Carolina politicians have adamantly opposed aerospace workers becoming unionized, as they know Boeing expanded South Carolina mostly due to its lack of unions. The governor claimed the IAM did not even want Boeing to build in South Carolina, noting the union’s complaint with the National Labor Relations Board that sought to stop work on the Charleston County site.
— The state Senate Judiciary Committee decided to bar any individuals convicted of domestic violence from possessing guns for up to 10 years. The language was included as part of a domestic violence bill the committee advanced to the full Senate floor on Wednesday. A group of Republicans said they were concerned about the length of the gun ban (10 years) for the lowest level offenses. Federal law already requires a lifetime ban, but that provision cannot be enforced by police or local law enforcement unless South Carolina passes a mirror law. Supporters say the state must take drastic steps if it is to reduce the amount of women killed by men in South Carolina.
— The state Senate on Wednesday approved a resolution that would remove the name of former Lexington County Sheriff James Metts from a boat landing on the Saluda River. Metts pleaded guilty to a federal bribery conspiracy charge last month and is awaiting sentencing. Prosecutors say Metts took bribes from a restaurant owner in exchange for releasing some of his employees who had been detained for being in the country illegally. A similar resolution on the boat landing is pending in the House.