McMaster State of the State Touches on Palmetto Promise Priorities

January 25, 2024

Oran P. Smith, Ph.D

Senior Fellow


Governor Henry McMaster delivered his annual State of the State address last night to the South Carolina General Assembly.

Palmetto Promise was thrilled to hear McMaster hammer home a number of the issues we have historically championed.

You can read the whole address here, but to save you that trouble, we highlight below several key quotations from the speech with links to Palmetto Promise’s previous work on the issues.

“South Carolina is the third fastest-growing state in the nation according to the U.S. Census Bureau. People want to be here. Not only did we drive our way through a debilitating pandemic, with our decisions based on common sense and the Constitution, we thrived.”

We reported on South Carolina’s business climate in our 2023 Fiscal Facts.

“This past November, South Carolinians overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment increasing the minimum required balance in the rainy-day reserve fund. It was increased from 5 percent to 7 percent of the total amount of General Appropriations Act funds available to be appropriated in any year. I now ask the General Assembly to set aside an additional $500 million to voluntarily increase the rainy-day reserve fund minimum balance from 7 percent to 10 percent.  By saving this money instead of spending it, we will once again be prepared for any future economic uncertainties, should they arise.”

We have long advocated for fiscal responsibility and budget stabilization…and increasing the reserve funds in particular.

“In February, the state Board of Economic Advisors is scheduled to issue an updated revenue forecast.  Should an increase in future revenues allow, I ask the General Assembly to use additional funds to speed up the income tax cut schedule, so taxpayers can keep even more of their hard-earned money.”

Palmetto Promise has led the charge to modernize our tax system like our neighboring states, and we were thrilled that the General Assembly passed such an income tax cut in 2022. We have published three white papers on how to modernize our tax system as have our friends at The Tax Foundation.

“Until last year, South Carolina’s system for funding K-12 education was archaic and confusing, a piecemeal system consisting of 29 separate line-item appropriations.  Now, a consolidated formula makes sure that funding follows the child.”

This new funding formula is a generational change for our state, one which Palmetto Promise had championed for years.

“My Executive Budget also provides $25 million in lottery dollars for the creation of education scholarship accounts, or ESAs, pending a change in the law by the General Assembly.  These funds will allow lower-income parents to choose the type of education environment and instruction that best suits their child’s unique needs.”

Education Savings Accounts are finally here in South Carolina, after a long battle to pass the bill. Learn more about ESAs and how to sign up at

“One thing we do not need is more labor unions.  We have gotten where we are without them, and we do not need them now. We are a right to work state.  We have the lowest union membership in the country….We will not let our state’s economy suffer or become collateral damage as labor unions seek to consume new jobs and conscript new dues-paying members. And we will not allow the Biden administration’s pro-union policies to chip away at South Carolina’s sovereign interests.”

Like as our Freedom Agenda predicted, the Biden administration has attacked worker freedom in South Carolina, and we must defend the state’s Right to Work law.

“To this end, the public should also know who is getting paid to influence decisions made by county, municipal, or school board officials.  These ‘lobbyists’ should be required to register with the State Ethics Commission, just like those who are paid to lobby the legislature.  What’s good for the Statehouse – is good for the Schoolhouse. Members of the General Assembly, send me this legislation and I will sign it into law.”

“We must also ensure that the public has confidence in our state’s judges.  Circumstances and events continue to raise questions. It is past time to provide full transparency and accountability to the magisterial selection process, which provides the bulk of our judges, over 300 in number.”

Palmetto Promise’s plan for magistrate judge reform can be found here. Our analysis, “Judging the Judges” can be found here.

“Once again, I ask that the state plan be closed to new beneficiaries as of December 31, 2023, and that new state employees prospectively enrolled in the State Optional Retirement Program, which is a defined contribution 401(k) plan. Another year of inaction is another year in which the unfunded liability in the pension plan will increase. We cannot ‘kick this can down the road’ any further.”

Unfortunately, the General Assembly has kicked this down the road for a while – Palmetto Promise called for pension reform back in 2016!

“One issue in need of re-examination is in the area of civil litigation known as ‘joint and several liability.’ Nobody, including business owners should be penalized for the actions of others, simply because they have more money.  Nor should anyone be absolved of responsibility for their own actions. I am confident that we can find a common-sense formula which will provide accountability and just compensation without damaging our economy.”

Tort reform must be a top priority for the 2024 legislative session, as we advocated in our Freedom Agenda Item #23.

We encourage the General Assembly to act on these important priorities during the 2024 legislative session.