Democratic candidate for South Carolina governor and State Representative James Smith, D-Richland, announced Monday if elected, he would create a cabinet position to oversee veterans affairs.
Smith made the announcement at the Veterans Memorial at the State House backed by several veterans, including his father, James Smith, Sr.
“This is critically important to show that we in South Carolina keep faith with our veterans and the great service that they have done for our state and for our nation,” he said. “It is very important that we continue to live up to what we have established as being the most military and veteran-friendly state in the country. And we know when we do that it helps to maintain the resources we have in terms of the DOD facilities as we look at the potentials for future BRAC.”
Smith currently is a major in the South Carolina Army National Guard. He can trace military service to every generation of his family dating back to the Revolutionary War.
He said he wants the legislature to pass a law to create the position so that one person can properly attend to the needs of the state’s veterans.
“It’s making sure that there is one person responsible and that it is elevated to a position where they speak directly to me so that it gets the attention and priority it deserves,” he said.
Smith’s running mate, Mandy Powers Norrell, said the position would serve as a liaison between state and local governments.
“A lot of times, state government and local government, there seems to be a barrier to communication and that — there shouldn’t be and I think that in a Smith administration that we’re going to break down those barriers to communicate with local government,” she said.
Smith also proposed to eliminate taxes on military retiree pay. Earlier this year Governor Henry McMaster proposed eliminating income taxes for retired military personnel. McMaster’s proposal did not make it through the Legislature.
Smith said veterans need an advocate at the state level.
The director would be charged with regular reporting on the current status of the veteran community as well as developing actionable solutions to best serve veteran needs. The director would also serve as a national advocate for South Carolinian veterans, working closely with congressional representation to create solutions to the issues facing those who have served.
“These men and women have stepped up to serve their country, and as governor, I will pursue policies that make South Carolina the best place in the country for veterans to live,” said Smith. “South Carolina has a long tradition of valuing the sacrifice of those who have served, and they will always be front-of-mind in my administration.”
Smith is challenging Republican incumbent McMaster for governor.