State of the State: South Carolina
The Clemson Tigers’ historic win in Monday’s National Championship game may be at forefront of the minds of everyone in South Carolina, but the Palmetto State has much more of which to be proud.
Surrounded by lawmakers, loved ones and the citizens of South Carolina, Governor Nikki Haley used her seventh and final State of the State address on Wednesday evening to bid a thankful farewell to a job she called “the greatest honor” of her life and to reflect on the many great strides South Carolina made during her tenure. While much of her address was a “goodbye…for now,” the governor did highlight substantial growth made in jobs, business investment and educational achievement, as well as reforms in ethics, criminal justice and domestic violence.
Governor Haley applauded lawmakers and those she lovingly calls “Team South Carolina” for helping change the way the world perceives the state. Touting the success of efficiency and budget reforms, the governor cited that since she took office six years ago, no cabinet agency has run a deficit, the state has doubled its reserve fund and reduced its debt service by half, all while providing significant tax relief to hardworking citizens.
Turning to the economy, Governor Haley announced the state has gained over 85,000 jobs in just six years. Over the same period, the unemployment rate has dropped from 11.1 percent to 4.4 percent-the lowest since January 2001. South Carolina has also experienced significant inflows in business investment, attracting $21.5 billion since January of 2011. Every one of the state’s 46 counties experienced job growth, and the state has become a haven for tire, automotive and aeronautics manufacturing. Even amid a difficult year for state budgets everywhere, South Carolina’s commitment to pro-growth reforms has pushed them 32nd to 30th in economic outlook in the Rich States, Poor States: ALEC-Laffer State Economic Competitiveness Index.
The governor also used her time to celebrate reforms to the state’s K-12 education system, noting improvements in reading proficiency and the success of English and reading coaches. Haley also praised the overhaul of the formulas used to allocate dollars to school systems, which have ensured every student has the resources and opportunities necessary to succeed.
Civil and criminal justice reform also received a mention, with the governor citing the thousands who have moved from welfare to work, and mentioning how prisoner education programs are putting the state in a place to both grow its human capital and reduce recidivism.
While not explicitly mentioned in her comments, the legislature is prepared to push on with many of the reforms Governor Haley has relentlessly driven over the years. Reforming South Carolina’s underfunded state pension system, as well as repairing the integrity of the state’s roads and infrastructure is high on many lawmakers’ list of priorities. Further, the conversations and findings of the state’s special committee on budget and tax policy give great hope for continued pro-growth reforms. Governor Nikki Haley’s no-nonsense attitude and faithful commitment to growing opportunity and wellbeing for all have surely been a boon for South Carolina, and if her optimism holds true, the future is even brighter.