Part of the promise of living in a first-world government is for it to help to make life a little better for everyone.
So when we read that state leaders are focusing in 2023 on improving economic development after attracting $10 billion in investment in 2022, we say “hurrah.” But we also encourage them to use the power of state government more broadly.
Instead of incentives for big businesses, adopt more incentives for teachers, small businesses and first responders. Instead of investments in workforce training, show a deeper commitment to public education, access to quality health care and strategies to end poverty for all.
Bottom line: Think broader and act bigger. So for the 15th year, we offer our annual list of Palmetto Priorities. These updated policy objectives encourage policymakers to meet or exceed 10 definable goals that have been on the table too long. As we first wrote in 2009:
“If you don’t have a policy map for where you want to be headed, you will flounder in proposal after proposal. Therefore, today we highlight broad continuing objectives for state legislators to consider and use as a bipartisan guide to creating a better South Carolina.”
This year’s updated Palmetto Priorities offer a bipartisan menu of ways for lawmakers to work together to lift up South Carolina:
GUN REFORM: Close the “Charleston loophole” in 2023 to extend the waiting period for purchasing a gun to at least five days to allow federal examiners more time for background checks. This has been on the state’s to-do list since the 2015 Emanuel AME Church massacre. It’s time to get this job done as well as consider other reasonable reforms to reduce gun violence in South Carolina.
POVERTY. Develop a broad-based anti-poverty agenda by 2025 that includes the jobs, education and health care components listed below to help lift the almost one in five South Carolinians in poverty into better conditions.
JOBS. Approve a Cabinet-level post by 2025 to add and retain 10,000 small business jobs per year. Politicians talk about helping small businesses. This would force them to.
EDUCATION. Cut the state’s public school dropout rate in half by 2030. If you believe in public education and workforce training, you need to invest more now to learn how to better teach our children early so they’re ready to work.
HEALTH CARE. Ensure affordable and accessible health care that optimizes preventive care for every South Carolinian by 2024. Expand Medicaid. More people need to be on health insurance, not fewer.
ENVIRONMENT. Adopt a real state energy policy that requires energy producers to generate 20% of their energy from renewable sources by 2025.
TAXES. Overhaul and stabilize the state’s antiquated tax structure by 2025 through reforms that broaden the tax base and lower rates. This should include reimplementation of reasonable property taxes and removal of hundreds of millions of dollars of sales tax exemptions that go to special interests.
CORRECTIONS. Cut the prison population by 25% by 2025 through creative alternative sentencing programs for non-violent offenders.
ROADS. Develop and implement a plan that creatively taps several sources to generate more millions of dollars every year for investment in the state’s crumbling system of roads and bridges, and start pigeon-holing money for significant investments in public transit.
POLITICS. One party rule doesn’t foster innovation. So let’s have a vigorous two- or multi-party political system of governance that abandons partisan gerrymandering of election districts. Appoint an independent state redistricting commission as implemented in several other states to take much of the politics out of electioneering.
Over the last 15 years, we’ve knocked two priorities off of the first list of priorities — increasing the cigarette tax to reduce smoking levels and boosting voter registration. Now let’s accomplish this revamped list of policy priorities to move South Carolina forward.
Andy Brack is editor and publisher of the Charleston City Paper and Statehouse Report. Have a comment? Send to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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