Henry McMaster occupying the governor’s chair could be good for state legislators, according to members of the Pickens County legislative delegation.
McMaster is likely to rise up from the lieutenant governor post sometime in next year’s legislative session to succeed Gov. Nikki Haley, who has been tapped by President-Elect Donald Trump to serve as the next U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.
“I’ve known the lieutenant governor since he and I worked for Strom Thurmond 40 years ago,” said state Rep. Gary Clary, a Clemson Republican, at a Tuesday reception at Tri-County Technical College’s Easley campus. “He knows the only way to get something done in politics is to talk about it and compromise. He knows that. He’s the kind of guy who will have an open door for legislators.”
Haley and her predecessor, Mark Sanford, both had reputations for being largely hands-off during legislative sessions and being willing to posture against a House and Senate dominated by their fellow Republicans.
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State Rep. Davey Hiott, a Pickens Republican, agreed with Clary that McMaster would probably be more hands-on in during the legislative session.
“I’ve already gotten a call from him (McMaster) about the next session,” Hiott said. “He’s promised to work with us on a lot of different issues. … I think he will certainly have a different style. I’m not criticizing Gov. Haley. She has her own style. I got used to that, and I thought she worked well with us.”
Hiott, Clary and incoming state Sen. Rex Rice all expressed hope that some kind of progress is made in the next session, which starts in slightly more than a month, on funding solutions for the state’s roads and employee pension system.
“I don’t think he’s going to want to kick that can down the road anymore,” Clary said about the state’s longterm road and bridge replacement needs, which have been pegged to be as high as $35 billion over the next several years. “The lieutenant governor knows we’ve got to have a consistently reliable system for paying for our roads.”
The state Legislature and Haley agreed in June to finance $4 billion of road work with general fund dollars, rather than raising the state’s 16-cent-per-gallon gasoline tax, which hasn’t increased since 1987.
“I’m willing to look at the gas tax, but not if there’s also going to be general fund money used, too,” said Rice, the former state House member who knocked off incumbent Larry Martin in the June GOP primary for the Senate District 2 seat representing Pickens County.
The legislators were at th eTri-County Tech Easley campus for a meet-and-greet hosted by the Greater Easley Chamber of Commerce. Rice and other newly elected county officials turned up to chat with one another and undo some of the friction that has existed in recent years between school board members, county council members and the legislative delegation.
“I think it’s great to see this kind of cooperation and networking,” Hiott said.