Henry McMaster’s Inaugural Address

Inaugural Address
As Prepared for Delivery
Wednesday, January 9, 2019
The Statehouse, Columbia

GOVERNOR HENRY McMASTER: It is another beautiful day in South Carolina. Thank you for coming.

Words cannot express the pride and joy I have to be the governor of the great state of South Carolina. It is exhilarating and humbling. An honor and a privilege. My family and I thank you.

We are players in a fascinating human history spanning centuries and enveloping all people and countries. This history has many elements, but the one constant is the presence of economic competition: Competition – sometimes rising to warfare – for land, markets, populations, for resources, all with which to prosper and grow.

That economic competition today is the greatest the world has ever known. It is not only competition with foreign companies, but with foreign nations and their governments as well.

It is sophisticated and instant, involving tariffs, taxes, technologies, data analytics and logistics. It is fierce, and it offers reward and security for those who succeed. It is also between states.

Viewed in the context of economic competition, it is clear what we must do for future generations of South Carolinians. We must compete. We must win.

This is our time. South Carolina is winning. And we will keep winning.

Great football coaches have said that the worst mistake a player can make is to fumble the ball.

And as the Clemson Tigers just showed the world – South Carolina produces superior teamwork. We will not fumble the football.

As your governor my game plan is to be bold, to coach a team of talented players who make their teammates better players – in practice, preparation and then on the field of competition.

My game plan for South Carolina requires changing our offensive plays on education. It means putting a strong defense on the field that tackles regulations, keeps high taxes off the field and protects our environment like it is the end zone.

There is no doubt that for years we have been winning. By “we,” I refer to South Carolina.

That means trailblazers and leaders – many of whom are here today. Business leaders. Public servants. Educators. Innovators. Doctors and nurses. Veterans. First responders and those upcoming.

For me, “we” means the five million men, women and children of South Carolina.

In the two years I have been in this office, we have announced over $8 billion in new capital investment and over 27,000 new jobs.

Today, our agricultural base is accelerating, our tourism industry is thriving and we have become a major high-tech manufacturing hub.

We are the nation’s top exporter of tires – and of completed automobiles.

Our average annual manufacturing employment growth is 16% – the highest in the southeast.

Over and over we are recognized as one of the best places in the country to do business – and to visit or vacation.

To continue and accelerate this economic prosperity, we must keep taxes low, eliminate suffocating regulations, and invest in infrastructure. Surpluses in state government revenues don’t  mean we have to spend it all; it means prioritizing the most critical needs then rebating what’s not needed back to the taxpayers. That’s what I intend to do.

Continued economic prosperity requires reforming our state’s tax code. It requires reforming our state’s marginal income and corporate tax rates to keep South Carolina competitive for jobs, investment and talent.

Prosperity requires that we increase our investment in developing a skilled workforce to fill the demands of today and tomorrow.

The skills required in today’s modern workplace require us to stay ahead of demand and adapt with rapid advancements in technology. Modern manufacturing plants and assembly lines have transformed into intricate computerized environments driven by advanced robotics, artificial intelligence, and sophisticated logistical delivery systems designed to deliver finished products around the world. Made in South Carolina.

It also requires that we invest in skilled workers in the trades – plumbing, masonry, carpentry, and others. Materials, methods and tools have changed. Skilled workers are in such high demand today that we have to go out of state to recruit them.

Right now South Carolina has 60,000 of those highly paid jobs looking for people. Our competitors have the same problem.

For decades every family’s goal was for their children to go to college, which meant a four-year college degree. Higher education was – and still is – the key to success. But now we know that economic prosperity does not necessarily require a four-year degree.

Economic prosperity can be achieved through two-year associate degrees and a multitude of certificates from our state’s technical colleges.

Our technical college system is the best in the country. It is unique, with readySC training employees for our state’s manufacturers and with bachelor’s degrees in applied manufacturing.

South Carolina’s technical colleges are assets of enormous opportunity for our future!

So, we must also increase our investment in developing this skilled workforce. Additional workforce scholarships, grants and partnerships between our technical schools, high schools and local businesses will expand our state’s pipeline of talent, as will partnerships between our research universities and manufacturers.

A strong, skilled workforce ensures economic prosperity for all South Carolinians. We must be bold, aggressive, alert and we must think long-term.

We must also commit ourselves to providing the highest quality education for South Carolina’s children if we are to continue to compete in the future for jobs and economic prosperity.

Here’s a pertinent example from sports competition: NASCAR racing in Darlington.

In 2003, after 400 miles with average speeds topping 125 miles per hour, including yellow flags and pit stops, Ricky Craven in a number 32 Pontiac beat Kurt Busch in a number 97 Ford by two one-thousandths of a second. In distance, that would be the thickness of the paint on the front bumper.

If one of Mr. Craven’s tires had been even a little bit flat, he would have lost.

Similarly, our state will never excel and succeed to our fullest potential if parts of our state are “flat” – or not performing. If we are bold and prepare for the race in front of us – South Carolina will beat the competition every time.

Months ago, I had a conversation with the district superintendent of one of our rural counties. Education suffers there, and once grown, young people are leaving. There is nothing for them there, except family.

Asked what the impact would be of a manufacturing company seeking 500 workers for a new plant in her county, which has none, she said – “It would change everything!”

That is what we intend to do: Change everything. My pledge to you today is that the words “Corridor of Shame” will soon be a fading memory.

This will require a state-backed economic development commitment to bring jobs to these communities by providing infrastructure in rural areas – not only in water, sewer and roads, but in school buildings and facilities. This will provide the spark. We must be bold.

Being perceived as weak in education is not good. But, being perceived as not committed to fixing it is disastrous. We will fix it and we will keep winning.

Coupled with the empowerment of investment – both private and public – envisioned by Jack Kemp twenty years ago and brought to reality by Senator Tim Scott with the creation of opportunity zones – we now have additional power to unleash the free market and public investment – to defeat the enemy of progress known as poverty.

We must also recruit and build the best team of teachers and educators in the country. This will require imagination and determination.

It will require providing South Carolina’s teachers with compensation that is competitive – in the southeast and across the nation.

We must also embark on providing bold reform: Reforming education funding. Making our schools safe with school resource officers and mental health counselors. Restoring old-fashioned discipline in the classroom. Common sense relief for our teachers from testing, forms and paperwork. Consolidating school districts and giving our state superintendent the authority to remove and replace non-productive school boards.

Over the years in the education debate, the riddle about “the chicken or the egg” always comes up. Which comes first? Is it the strong family, the job or the education? We don’t know. But we do know that if we lack any one of the three – strong families, jobs or education – we will not have the other two.

In short, we know that our success in today’s world-wide economic competition depends on our intellectual capacity, training, research and development, knowledge, innovation and imagination. In a word, on our brain power.  That is why South Carolina’s commitment to education must be second to none in the United States.

Finally, we must endeavor to always protect our state’s environment, our spectacular natural resources.

This land, as noted by the explorers for kings and queens, is lush, fertile and brimming with abundance in plant and animal life. It is irreplaceable. The obligation and privilege of our generation and others is to use it, cultivate it, develop it and also to protect it and encroach upon it only gently.

Our economic growth and the preservation of our natural environment are not opposing objectives which must be balanced as in a competition, one against the other. Instead, they are complementary, intertwined and inseparable, each dependent on the other.

To these ends, I recently established the South Carolina Floodwater Commission. It is unique in the United States. The commission’s purpose is to provide guidance, solutions and opportunities presented by inland and coastal flooding and all that entails. Its scope will be global, to be applied here.

Economic prosperity requires that we address water in a comprehensive fashion – whether it is flooding, sea rise, aquifer depletion or upstream withdrawal. Make no mistake – a plentiful water supply is essential to our manufacturing, agricultural and tourism industries as well as our quality of life – so we must work diligently and intelligently, and we must plan for the long-term.

And let me assure you that I will firmly stand against all efforts to endanger the future of our pristine coastline, our beaches, our sea islands, our marshes and our watersheds.

In closing, let me say two things:

First, to the members of the General Assembly: We – among ourselves – are not competitors. We are all on the same team – with the same ultimate goal – which is the prosperity and happiness of the people of South Carolina.

And, second, but foremost, to the young people of South Carolina, let me say: I see before us the brightest of futures. But we must think big, have confidence and be bold. We will do things we have not done before. And we will succeed.

May God bless you, the great state of South Carolina and the United States of America.