State of the State: South Carolina
Following a year of tragedy, Governor Nikki Haley’s State of the State address was full of rousing optimism and calls to action. “The state of our state is bent but not broken,” the governor declared. Touting South Carolina’s great success in attracting foreign investment, making it one of the East Coast’s fastest-growing state economies, Governor Haley emphasized that it was achieved without a single tax hike.
In her address, the Governor Haley outlined her education reform agenda for South Carolina’s underserved rural communities. The governor stressed that new investments in education must be administered using a priority-based process, ensuring the best possible results for both students and taxpayers.
To its credit, South Carolina has exercised tremendous discipline to keep its fiscal house in order, avoiding the use of damaging tax increases. As Governor Haley noted, the state’s unemployment rate dropped to 5.5 percent this year – the lowest since 2001; and in just the last two years, employment growth has saved businesses over $151 million in unemployment taxes. Almost 30,000 people have left welfare and joined the workforce; and criminal justice reforms have helped reduce recidivism rates by more than 25 percent.
While Governor Haley did push for new spending on roads and transportation infrastructure, she firmly warned that she will veto any bill that does not also cut taxes while enacting desperately needed reforms to the Department of Transportation. The governor pointedly remarked, “We had $1 billion in new revenue last year. We have $1.3 billion in new revenue this year. My Executive Budget includes every dollar needed to pay for this year’s tax cut… This is not our money. It belongs to the taxpayers. We can and should return it to them.”
South Carolina has worked hard for its economic success. In her State of the State address, Governor Haley focused on generally straightforward, common sense and economically sound policy solutions. There is little doubt that, if the state continues on its current, pro-growth trajectory, a bright future lies ahead.