On Wednesday night, January 13th, Governor Henry McMaster delivered his annual State of the State Address to a Joint Assembly of the State Legislature. His speech covered issues including CARES Act funding for small businesses, record business at the Port of Charleston, school safety measures, and pay raises for teachers, among others. Here are some key takeaways:
The debt-ridden electric utility, Santee Cooper, had its turn in the spotlight. McMaster said plainly: “There is no state agency in more need of reform or dissolution than Santee Cooper.” He continued:
“This rogue agency and its leadership have displayed arrogance and contempt for state law and the truth. Their incompetence helped create the largest nuclear power fiasco in modern times… The time has long passed for the resolution of Santee Cooper’s fate.”
The House and Senate reconvened this week, and in just one meeting, the House Ways and Means Committee passed a plan to deal with Santee Cooper with astonishing speed, and two other bills were filed in the Senate proposing methods to sell the troubled utility. The legislature is wasting no time in dealing with Santee Cooper so they can focus on supporting education, jobs, and the economy post-COVID.
COVID Economic Impact
McMaster dedicated much of his time addressing how our state is recovering from the economic consequences of the pandemic. Surprisingly, the stats were overwhelmingly positive.
- In April, South Carolina lost 300,000 jobs. As of today, we’ve regained 220,00 of those jobs. That’s over an 81% gain (the national average is at 55%).
- In April, the unemployment rate was 12.4%. As of today, unemployment in South Carolina is the lowest in the entire Southeastern United States at 4.4%
- Today, South Carolina is one of the most financially stable states in the county.
McMaster attributed all of the above to the strategy our state took to combat the virus:
“We took a road less traveled – a better road. We slowed down, but safely remained open. We never closed. Our reasonable steps of limited, measured and temporary actions allowed us to combat the virus without crippling our economy.”
Education and COVID Moving Forward
McMaster also addressed how education was, and will continue to be, affected by COVID-19. McMaster stated his position plainly: children should be able to return to school 5 days a week if the parent’s see fit. To mitigate safety concerns, the following steps are being taken:
- $10 million is being spent on masks and PPE to public schools across the state.
- Every school district has access to rapid antigen tests through DHEC.
- Every school district has been given the resources to provide full-time, in-person instruction.
Since many schools remain reluctant to re-opening, McMaster asked the General Assembly to write legislation requiring public schools to return to classroom instruction — he will sign into law immediately.
Read the Governor’s complete remarks here.