Gov. Henry McMaster vowed to work on improving South Carolina education system in his inauguration speech, saying an under-taught future workforce will eventually drag down the state’s economy.
McMaster’s 16-minute inaugural address was centered around what the governor called South Carolina’s “economic prosperity,” with his various political objectives centered around keeping the momentum.
“Our state will never excel and succeed to its fullest potential, if parts of the state are flat, or not performing,” the governor said.
Wednesday marked the beginning of McMaster’s first full term in office, after he finished out the final two years of former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley’s term. McMaster won reelection in November with 54 percent of the vote.
McMaster said continuing the state’s economic growth will require “bold” investing in rural areas, especially schools to create a future trained workforce. Besides physical infrastructure in new buildings, the governor said he wants to recruit the best educators with “competitive” competition and giving them “common-sense” relief from red tape, in addition to additional funding so poorer schools can hire school resource officers.
“Being perceived as weak in education is not good,” McMaster said. “But being perceived as not willing to fix it is disastrous.”
Legislators have also vowed to improve South Carolina’s underperforming education system, although dozens of different — sometimes contradictory — ideas are being proposed. A Senate panel is studying ways to reduce teachers’ non-classroom workloads, while House leaders want to restructure statewide funding formulas and consolidate more districts.
The governor also pushed to lower the state’s top marginal income tax rate amid overall tax reform, again tying it to what he considered essential for the state to be “competitive” for business recruitment.
“To continue and accelerate this economic prosperity, what must we do?” he said. “We must keep taxes low, we must eliminate suffocating regulations and we must invest in infrastructure.”
The governor did not mention Santee Cooper in his address, as the state tries to decide if it will reform or sell off its power utility. McMaster has advocated selling the company to pay down its $8 billion debt exacerbated by a failed nuclear project. Senior legislators oppose the idea, saying more study is needed on the potential impacts to the state and whether a good sale could even occur for the struggling asset.
McMaster hinted that he would continue to oppose offshore drilling or oil exploration but — much like his previous positions — did not openly criticize the idea. “Let me assure you that I will firmly stand against all efforts to endanger the future of our pristine coastline, our beaches, our sea islands, our marshes and our watersheds,” he said, without specifying whether those “efforts” included drilling.