Excerpts: Gov. Nikki Haley’s State of the State address

January 22, 2014 

Gov. Nikki Haley gives the State of the State Address in the House chambers.

TIM DOMINICK — tdominick@thestate.com Buy Photo

Excerpts from Wednesday’s speech by Republican Gov. Nikki Haley:

On jobs and the economy

Gov. Campbell, whose portrait now hangs in the library at the residence, believed that if you give a person a job, you take care of a family.

Three years ago, we had a lot of families to take care of. Team South Carolina was formed, and we have never looked back. ...

We have announced over 43,000 new jobs, in 45 out of 46 counties. We have seen almost $10 billion invested in South Carolina. We have seen 186 expansions of existing companies, the ultimate compliment a business can give a state.

We have seen the revival of our manufacturing industry, with the announcement of more than 26,000 new manufacturing jobs. ...

We have seen companies from 25 foreign countries decide that they want to do business on American soil, right here in South Carolina. ...

We have seen the lowest unemployment rate in five years — and seen our rate fall two-thirds faster than the national rate.

We are being referred to, which I love, as the “Beast of the Southeast.” We now have the fastest growing economy on the East Coast.

And 70,000 more South Carolinians are working today than were just three years ago.

That is progress. That is real. ...

Roads

Infrastructure must also remain a priority. ...

Last year, using revenue we already had, we were able to pass into law the largest investment in South Carolina’s roads and bridges in more than two decades. A billion dollars. And we did it without raising taxes. ...

But we know there’s more work to be done.

You might ask the question, “How do we pay for it?”

And my answer will be, “Not by hiking taxes.”

We proved last year that we can invest in our roads and bridges with the dollars we already have. Raising the gas tax — forcing our people and our businesses to pay more for the simple act of getting around — is not an option for me.

I will veto any bill that reaches my desk that raises taxes on gasoline. ...

So instead, this year, as last, our budget writers should take the additional revenue that inevitably appears after our budget is balanced — what I call “the money tree” — and invest it in our infrastructure.

Since 2005, the “money tree” that falls every year has averaged more than $106 million.

According to the Department of Transportation, those dollars, invested the right way, will be worth more than 1.3 billion in additional road and bridge improvements. ...

Ethics

We know that South Carolina needs stronger and clearer ethics laws, and we know we need it this year.

We know that we are one of just four states that don’t require income disclosures, and we know we can’t wait until we are the very last to fix the problem.

We know that South Carolinians want an investigative process they can believe in, and we know that means a truly independent process. No more House members investigating House members. No more senators investigating senators. ...

The good news is that in one year we have made real progress. The House has passed the strongest ethics reform bill in a generation. The Senate ... moved that bill quickly through the committee process. ...

But we’re not done yet.

As the Senate is poised this month for debate, I ask you not to water down this historic reform. ...

Education

I was born and raised in Bamberg and went to school in a brick box. We didn’t know what we didn’t have. ...

Now my daughter Rena attends the brand new River Bluff High School in Lexington, where every classroom has a 72-inch television and every child has an iPad.

I wish I could say that was generational progress. But the thing is, it is progress based on geography, not on generational advancement.

Because when I went back to Bamberg to give an anti-bullying speech, the school didn’t even have the equipment to show a video.

That’s wrong. It’s immoral. And it has to change. ...

Our kids should never feel that they are more or less worthy based on where they live. Our children should all feel like they have every opportunity to be as successful as they dream to be.

And South Carolina can no longer accept that the quality of our children’s education will be determined by where they are born and raised. ...

The education conversation we started one year ago was one of the most interesting and enlightening experiences I’ve had as governor. ... We looked at the way we fund education at the state level. We found our formula to be outdated and misguided, and that as a result we are not doing the best job of directing dollars to the areas that need them most.

Today, our primary funding formula doesn’t account for children who are gifted or those who require individual instruction. We don’t account for children who have difficulty speaking English. We don’t account for those adult students, ages 17-21, who are still pursuing a diploma or a GED.

But the most glaring failure on our part has been the failure to acknowledge that it simply costs more to educate a child in poverty. Research shows that the cost of teaching low-income students with proven methods is roughly $1,200 more per child.

As a state, we can’t afford to ignore that any longer.

Under our proposed changes, school districts will receive 20 percent more in state dollars for each child that falls into the poverty index. In real terms, this simple change means that next year almost $100 million more will flow to South Carolina’s neediest children. ...

Money, for sure, is far from the only answer to our problems in education. ...

We have fallen into the bad habit in South Carolina of promoting students through grade levels before they are ready.

Teachers don’t want to do this. They feel pressure, from administrators and districts and school boards, to keep children moving and to keep numbers up. And they feel pressure, from everywhere, not to damage a child socially by keeping them back.

To that I would simply say that a child who cannot read at the level of his or her peers is already damaged socially. ...

Studies show that children who cannot read proficiently by the end of the third grade are four times more likely to not graduate high school on time.

And South Carolina ranks 42nd in the country when it comes to our fourth-graders’ ability to read at a basic level. ...

Every elementary school in South Carolina will be offered a reading coach to make sure that no child leaves the third grade unable to read. ...

Technology is the future — not just in education, but in all aspects of our lives. ...

South Carolina is going to invest in education technology in a way we never have before.

We are going to make sure that the Internet gets to our schools. We are going to make sure those schools are wired to receive it. We are going to provide the tools — computers, tablets, and instructional materials — so that our teachers can get the most out of our investment and out of our students. And South Carolina’s schools are going to be equipped to compete with any school, in any state. ...

We can transform education in South Carolina, and we can do it without raising a single tax and without taking a single existing dollar away from a single district.

When those changes seem too big, or too hard, remember at the core this is just a simple question.

Are we willing to stand two children side by side, and tell one, that through no fault of his own, he is going to attend a school with less, while at the same me telling the other she will have every ounce of support she needs to thrive?

I can tell you I am not. And I hope you’ll join me.

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