Believe it or not, we are entering the third week of our 2020 legislative session. The first few weeks are always filled with meetings of the various Ways & Means subcommittees to prepare the upcoming state budget which means that floor debate to consider other bills is somewhat limited. This hiatus will change shortly as we get legislation moving.
Last week we heard the State of the State address by Gov. Henry McMaster. Below are a couple of the highlights for those of you who just dropped in to see what condition our condition was in:
We have over $1.8 billion in excess tax revenue as compared to our budgeted expenses. The Governor proposes several uses of the surplus including granting taxpayers another tax rebate and reforming our income tax rates. I am all for returning tax money to the citizens that it belongs to. I am also for tax reform especially the reform of our income tax rates. As I have exclaimed these many years, our state income tax structure unfairly shifts the tax burden onto the citizens who drive our economy- our middle-income workers.
The Governor proposes giving all k-12 public school teachers a $3,000 raise to their annual salary. If passed in the budget, this raise would put South Carolina into the top 25 national ranking for teacher pay. We are currently ranked 41st. He did not include any details about methods to measure teacher performance or accountability.
The Governor proposes expanding 4k to “every lower income 4-year-old” in the state. This expansion would build upon the 2006 General Assembly’s decision to fund 4k for Medicaid-eligible children in public schools.
The Governor believes that this expansion would help decrease the number of 5-year-old students entering kindergarten without the necessary literacy and language skills. He did not include a cost estimate of the expansion nor did he give any statistics about the effectiveness of the 2006 decision that initially established the 4k program.
This week the Education and Public Works Committee, of which I am a member, will consider H4753 Teacher Bill of Rights. Included in this bill is a provision to give teachers an income tax credit equal to 100% of the property taxes paid by the teacher on his primary residence and who resides in a tier-IV county. This is an incentive to draw more qualified teachers to our poorer counties downstate.
Last week we passed out favorably H4760 that attempts to reduce the number of standards-based testing that our k-12 students are subjected to each school year. This bill targets assessment tests for social studies and American History – two of my favorite subjects. Need I remind my fellow House members of the old George Santayana quote, “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” – a condition that South Carolina quite often finds itself in.