State Sen. Vincent Sheheen, the presumed Democratic candidate for governor in November, asked the state treasurer Wednesday to conduct a study to see if female state employees are paid less than men for the same work.
Equal pay for state workers was one of the issues that Sheheen’s campaign rolled out Wednesday as part of his “Women’s Agenda.”
The Camden attorney, expected to face Republican Gov. Nikki Haley for a second time this fall, also called for stiffer domestic violence penalties and boosting women-owned small businesses.
In his letter to state Treasurer Curtis Loftis, Sheheen said South Carolina is one of only five states that does not have an equal pay law.
Women earn 77 cents for every $1 men make, according to U.S. Census data. Women account for a little less than half of South Carolina’s total work force.
“Paying them less than men simply because of gender makes no sense, and in a country founded on freedom and opportunity – it is also just not fair,” Sheheen wrote to Loftis. “I believe it is imperative that women receive equal pay for equal work.”
The treasurer’s office is trying to determine if it can conduct the audit requested by Sheheen, spokesman Alex Stroman said.
The State Budget and Control Board, headed by Haley, oversees pay rates in state government. However, the treasurer cuts pay checks for state employees.
If elected governor, Sheheen would issue an executive order requiring state agencies to pay employees equally, his campaign said.
In his Women’s Agenda, Sheheen also pledged to increase the number of women on college boards and other leadership jobs statewide.
He also wants to expand the definition of domestic abuse to include teenage couples and women under 18, increase penalties for domestic abuse convictions and protect funding for rape crisis centers and women’s shelters.
Sheheen has started a statewide tour to promote his women’s agenda. He visited Spartanburg and Rock Hill last weekend and plans trips to Columbia, Myrtle Beach, Charleston, Greenville and Aiken over the next three weeks, his campaign said. No schedule was released.
Sheheen held similar meetings statewide with small business owners last year.
Haley’s camp said the governor – as a woman, wife and mother – “understands that the best way to raise up the women of South Carolina is to raise up all of South Carolina.”
“She won’t stop until every person in South Carolina – man, woman and child – has the opportunity they deserve,” Haley campaign spokesman Rob Godfrey said.