Legislative Updates

Week two from the State House

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WRITTEN BY lclark 2 years ago

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On Wednesday evening, Governor Nikki Haley delivered her 2015 State of the State address. Prior to beginning her speech, Haley recognized invited guests, one of which was our very own Joe Riley, Mayor of Charleston. Haley thanked the Mayor for his nearly 40 years of service and his hand in making Charleston the most popular destination in America. The Governor also revealed her infrastructure improvement plan consisting of three parts:
  • an increase of the motor fuel user fee by 10 cents over three years
  • a reduction to the state’s income tax from 7% to 5% over the next 10 years
  • the restructuring of South Carolina’s Department of Transportation (SCDOT)
This is the first time Haley has mentioned an increase to South Carolina’s motor fuel user fee, which is the third lowest in the country. Her plan to restructure SCDOT would eliminate the SCDOT commissioner system, giving the Governor more executive control over the department. The Chamber responded to the address stating:

“While we do not completely agree with the Governor’s three-point plan to fix our critical infrastructure needs, we appreciate that Governor Haley has listened to the business community and taken the significant steps to bring this issue to the table. It is obvious that the Governor, as well as the House and Senate leadership, agree that this is one of the most critical issues facing our region and state. The business community looks forward to working with the Governor, House and Senate leaders on the creation of a solution for funding infrastructure improvements throughout South Carolina.”

While Haley’s plan doesn’t fulfill the $1.5 billion a year funding gap for the SCDOT, it does provide the framework for the House Transportation Infrastructure and Management Ad Hoc Committee to begin putting together a more comprehensive bill. Chairman of the Committee, Gary Simrill, plans to have a bill written by next week. Our Chamber, along with the Coastal Chamber, Upstate and Midlands Chamber Alliances will continue to push Haley as well as House and Senate leaders for a complete funding bill in 2015. To that point, we will be delivering letters from the Chamber Board of Directors to Haley asking for a comprehensive plan that solves the $1.5 billion funding gap. While Haley’s roads plan received most of the attention from the State of the State address, there were a few other highlights worth mentioning. Haley hammered the International Association of Machinists (IAM) attempt to unionize the Boeing South Carolina plant. Haley also asked for an ethics reform package this year, as well as improvements to rural education in South Carolina. She offered a new workforce training initiative called Succeed, in which the state will provide funding to train citizens in trying circumstances who want to be retrained in other fields. Upon finishing the program and getting a job, they would be required pay the state back. Finally, on Thursday, Representatives Jim Merrill and Leon Stavrinakis filed a bill granting the College of Charleston the ability to offer graduate and doctoral programs. As you may remember, in September the Commission on Higher Education granted the College’s change in mission statement allowing research university status. This bill will make the same change legislatively, assuring any potential loopholes or challenges in the court system will be closed.
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