Questionnaire response to the Post & Courier
- What are the best solutions for fixing schools in South Carolina?
South Carolina will never have a truly bright future until we provide each child a decent — not just a minimally adequate — public education. The best solution for fixing our schools is to make that goal a real priority. Since 2010, the Legislature has underfunded our school children by almost $4.4 billion. So first, the Legislature must comply with the law. Second, we must immediately increase teacher pay and improve dilapidated classroom conditions. Where a classroom does not presently have a teacher, let’s get creative. For example, we could select the best teachers in the state and if a classroom is vacant, we could “beam” a teacher to those students. In the longer term, we must identify appropriate revenue sources to provide funding for building improvements and other critical programs. In this regard, we need to revamp our tax structure, focusing on Act 388, and consider bonds or other revenue generating options, and reexamine our lottery. Finally, we must make teaching a profession that our young people want to embrace. This will require a number of actions, including expanding the Teacher Cadet Program, offering scholarship money and, as discussed above, increasing teacher pay and improving classroom conditions.
I cannot conclude my answer to this question without one additional comment. To the extent that any gubernatorial candidate claims that they will “overhaul the school system” or be the “education Governor,” they are misleading the voters. Under our constitution, the Legislature is responsible for providing each child with a public education. In addition, the State Superintendent of Education is not a member of the Governor’s cabinet. Until the power is constitutionally placed in the Governor’s “hands,” the Governor will never be the official who can fix the schools.
How can South Carolina best grow its economy and find skilled workers for unfilled high-tech jobs?
I consider this to be two questions. As to how best to grow our economy, I will continue to bring large businesses, like Boeing and Volvo, to South Carolina. I will also provide additional support for small businesses, which often create opportunities for women and minorities. In addition, I will focus the Department of Commerce on rural areas, like Marion County, which are struggling with poverty. We will need to find innovative, and perhaps unorthodox, opportunities for these areas. For example, if Marion County wants a casino, then let’s build a casino, regulate and tax it, and help Marion County lift itself out of poverty.
And while we’re talking about growing the economy, I need to add two important points. South Carolina is one of only four states without an equal pay law for women. It is way past time that we address this inequity. And we must support the working mothers of South Carolina who have a tougher time finding quality daycare, earn less, and face a bigger gender pay gap than their sisters in most other states.
As to finding skilled workers, there is a crisis in our workforce. According to the State Chamber of Commerce, “‘Critical Needs’ jobs account for 45% of the workforce while only 29% of people have the necessary skills to fill these jobs.’” This is both a short- and long-term problem for our state.
In the short-term, we need to retrain and re-educate every South Carolina worker who loses their job through no fault of their own. No worker should be left standing in unemployment lines when our businesses know exactly what kind of workers they need. Our technical colleges and their affiliates, such as the Southeastern Institute of Manufacturing Technology at Florence-Darlington Technical College, already have programs to accomplish this goal. We should replicate those programs statewide.
But many of our adults who want high-tech jobs are undereducated. This is a tougher problem, and one that we must face head-on. Working collaboratively with our technical schools and the businesses themselves, we will need to remediate these workers so that they will be sufficiently educated to have the higher-level technical training required for these jobs.
In the long term, we are not educating our children to do the jobs of the future. Simply put, South Carolina needs sweeping education reform.
If our state continues failing to educate school children in math and science, we will not be able to fill high-tech jobs. I will work with the Legislature to encourage appropriate education reform, as well as increased funding for STEM programs. If the Legislature fails to address these critical needs, I will veto their budget bills until they sober up and realize our children are the future of our economic success.
3. How can the state best preserve its beaches and overall water quality?
Let me begin by saying this: I believe in science, climate change and science-based education. The best “tools and weapons” we have in fighting to preserve our natural treasures are our children. We must begin educating them at an early age to be responsible citizens of our state and our planet and to take care of the resources our ancestors left us.
Our beaches from Little River down to Daufuskie are some of the most beautiful in the world. The tourism industry in South Carolina now nears $20 billion annually, much of that spread up and down our coastline. As Governor, I will sue the Federal government all the way to the Supreme Court to make sure no oil and gas company drills anywhere near our coastline. This is not just about stopping our own Deepwater Horizon accident or losing billions of dollars in tourism money. This is about teaching our kids to tie a string around a chicken neck and dropping it off a pier to catch crabs for generations to come. I’m not willing to take that chance with our children’s future.
Our inland rivers, streams and watersheds all lead to the Atlantic Ocean. It is important we work with industry, including our state’s farmers, to make sure they keep our waters clean AND earning a living. It is the responsibility of every South Carolinian to practice reasonable water usage because, after all, our rivers, streams, and watersheds belong to all of us.
And finally, there are over 30 public water systems in South Carolina that exceed recommended lead levels. Folks, this is 2018 and should not be happening in our state. As Governor, I will work with anyone and every entity, whether it be the private sector or the Federal government, to identify as many revenue sources as possible to remediate these contaminated public water systems.
How should South Carolina address its energy needs post-V.C. Summer?
The best way to address our energy needs “post-V.C. Summer” is to clean house in the State House. If there is any place that could use some “solar energy”—like shining the light on rampant corruption and incompetence—it is the Legislature. For now, ratepayers are stuck with the bill for a nuclear plant that won’t be built and millions of dollars in bonuses for executives who failed on the job. This is completely unacceptable, and when I’m Governor, I will do everything in my power to protect the ratepayers.
Act 236, which was passed in 2014, requires the State to develop a robust and diverse energy portfolio. As we work to expand opportunities for renewable energy — including solar, wind and biomass — South Carolina must ensure that rates are reasonable for businesses and homeowners. To date, the Legislature, which is constitutionally responsible for ratemaking in South Carolina, gets a failing grade.
What is the best way to keep schools safe in the wake of the mass shootings?
The recent mass shootings have left our students and teachers not only vulnerable, but also emotionally battered. To keep our schools safe, as well as to reduce the anxiety of our children and school personnel, we should (1) institute comprehensive gun safety measures; (2) install metal detectors; (3) add additional school safety personnel; (4) design and repeatedly conduct safety drills; and (5) work with law enforcement to increase their presence in schools (for example, having officers eat lunch or breakfast in the cafeteria with students). Finally, we need to increase our resources directed to identifying and treating individuals with mental health issues throughout South Carolina. And, while I would never arm teachers, I would empower and encourage both teachers and students to report certain suspicious conduct to appropriate authorities.
6. How could South Carolina better handle violence at its prisons?
South Carolina can better handle violence in its prisons by doing the following: (1) fully staffing its facilities with qualified, adequately paid personnel, including prison guards; (2) instituting effective barriers to the acquisition of contraband by prisoners; and (3) imposing harsh penalties on the suppliers of such contraband. In some cases, providing inmates with incentives for good conduct has shown to be an effective way to reduce violence. Where appropriate, we should provide such incentives including, for example, more or extended family visits.
What are the biggest gaps with the state’s ethics laws?
The recent upheavals in the State House underscore the need to focus on South Carolina’s ethics laws. So, let’s get started. First, we must enforce the laws on the books. There are clear guidelines about self-dealing and influence-peddling governing the actions of state officials. There needs to be some real teeth in the enforcement of these prohibitions. Second, there should be better disclosure of the groups and individuals who are using 501c-4 or similar organizations to influence the direction of campaigns and legislation. We need to expose the “dark money” entering into our system of politics. Third, take the “For Sale” sign down from the State House, at least while it is in session and hopefully working on the people’s business. How do we do this? Ban all fundraising by state elected officials and caucus committees during the legislative session. Hopefully, this will slow down, if not totally eliminate, the “pay for play” culture in Columbia.
How can South Carolina help residents with affordable healthcare?
Affordable healthcare, and the looming healthcare crisis, are two of the biggest challenges facing our next Governor. All affordable healthcare, in the long term, begins with prevention. Prevention, in turn, begins with education. At the end of the day, we are all responsible for our own bodies.
From the experts I have interviewed, it appears likely that we are ultimately headed to a single-payer system. In the interim, however, we can expand Medicaid, which will bring healthcare to 200,000 in South Carolinians who live in poverty, and we can improve rural health services. But we must elect federal officials who are committed to protecting what Donald Trump calls “entitlements” –– Medicare, Medicaid, food supplements and Social Security. Why? Because a substantial portion of the dollars that fund these programs in South Carolina comes from the federal government.
We must plan for the future of our healthcare needs, including the possibility that President Trump and his cronies will cut the dollars for critical programs. Planning ahead for such a future economic blow to South Carolina, and its most vulnerable citizens, will be one of the major objectives of my tenure. In addition, we must plan for the “graying” of our population, which will inevitably increase the demand for healthcare services. Any failure to plan for possible reduction of federal funding, along with the aging of South Carolinians, would constitute malfeasance on the part of the State’s chief executive.
If you could give the governor’s office one power, what would that be?
The Governor’s office needs to have a balance of power with the Legislature and the Judiciary. This balance would turn the Governor’s office into a true executive function, which would better serve our state. Without this balance, the Governor is effectively limited in what she can do as an executive.
Where should the state be more assertive? Where should the state be less assertive?
I’m not sure I understand this question, so let me tell you my motto: government should help you when you need helping and leave you alone when you follow the law and are doing just fine. So, I “assert” that we as a state should do more to help our most vulnerable neighbors when they need it the most. We can do that by expanding Medicaid, investing in our failing schools, and stopping Donald Trump from drilling of our coastline. We must find creative ways to bring more money into our state coffers, whether it’s through lottery reform and expansion, medical marijuana, or regulated gaming.
Where should we be less assertive? Well, sometimes just getting government out of the way is enough. But let me be clear: when it comes to the health and safety of our children, or the protection of our natural resources, or making sure our most vulnerable have food to eat, I “assert” we should do the right thing by them.
I hope I’ve answered your question.
Going back 2010, what is the state’s biggest accomplishment? What is its biggest disappointment?
Our biggest accomplishment is how we came together as a state in the days after June 17, 2015 when Dylann Roof murdered nine innocent South Carolinians at Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston. What could have worsened a racial and cultural divide in our state instead brought us closer. The victims’ families openly forgave Roof for his act of domestic terrorism and they showed us all how to lead by example.
Hopefully, we as South Carolinians have turned a corner in our long, ugly struggle with racism. But we must be vigilant in stopping any kind of discrimination — whether racial, sexual, or other — that rears its ugly head here in South Carolina.
And that leads me to our biggest disappointment. While there are many contenders, I think the “winner” is the continual failure of the South Carolina Legislature to take care of the state’s important business, including schools, infrastructure and power. A close second is the political grandstanding of our Governors — failing to expand Medicaid and refusing to raise the gas tax — for no reason other than to pander, and thereby harm our citizens. As Governor, I promise you this: I will never act just to put my political future ahead of our state’s needs.
How would you get the Legislature to work with you?
My running mate, Senator John Scott, has been a member of the Legislature for over 25 years. He is well known as an effective, and responsive, Senator. Accordingly, Senator Scott and I would work collaboratively to advance our legislative agenda.
Give an example from your past that provides a reason why should someone vote for you.
I am not afraid to tackle, and solve, tough issues. Several years ago, I sued Exxon Mobil Corporation on behalf of a small business in Darlington, South Carolina. After almost four weeks of trial, the jury returned a multi-million dollar verdict for my client. In other words, I was not afraid to fight a corporate giant on behalf of a small South Carolina company. Voters should understand that, if I need to fight any battle on behalf of South Carolina, I am up to the job.