With January and February behind us, the legislative year is flying by, and for this reason, I write to recap where we are -- and to ask you make your voice heard going forward.
Probably the best road map on where this administration would like to go lies in the 30-day agenda we proposed and in the State of the State and budget we laid out at the beginning of January. In the first 30 working days, we asked that we pass the things that were at the proverbial one-yard line, and we saw immigration, DUI and small business health-care reforms fitting this bill.
Each of these was either long overdue or represented an area of common ground that would allow legislation to move quickly. To the credit of House and Senate members, the health-care bill already has been signed, and it looks like immigration is close to being passed. DUI reform has passed both chambers, but with some unfortunate weakening changes in the Senate.
The State of the State and budget really centered on how necessary it is we do things differently in our state if we are going to be competitive with the rest of the world. In this we have long believed there are five foundations on which change is essential -- and if each South Carolinian were to pick just one area to invest time and energy, remarkable changes would come our way.
First off, I agree with so many across our state who say it is time we move out of "Pitchfork" Ben Tillman's shadow. This former governor was instrumental in designing a governmental system built to make sure a black governor had no power should one be elected during Reconstruction. We believe change is crucial here -- and that one of the things that we can change this year is the Budget and Control Board. We have proposed moving many of its functions to a Department of Administration; if we did, future governors could handle the administrative functions of government -- as it is done in the other 49 states.
Second, being competitive also rests on maximizing the private sector in your economy. It is impossible to do this if government grows faster than the underlying economy -- and this has been the case over the last four years. To prevent this from happening in the future, we proposed three reforms this year: a spending cap so that budget writers have spending discipline thrust upon them; a limit to one-time money going to recurring expenditures; and addressing the $20 billion in unpaid promises in state government. Each of these things is consistent with common-sense spending rules that families across our state follow -- and that we ought to be following in Columbia. I would especially ask for your help here given the differences of opinion we have had to contend with on spending over the last few years.
Third, we think there are two important steps we can take this year to bettering our business environment. First, lower our state's income tax rate. It's effectively the highest in the Southeast, and by trading it off with current efforts to raise the cigarette tax, we could give people an optional flat tax of 3.4 percent. Second, repeal the Cabela's special legislation that gives $9 million in incentives to a store coming into our state -- and nothing to the scores of other businesses in our state that sell the same things. We think to be competitive in the long run, government should create as inviting a place as possible for all businesses to compete but never step into the role of picking winners and losers.
Fourth, you can't compete with a subpar educational system, and while we have pockets of greatness, there are far too many places where children fall between the cracks of the system. Moving to a system that gives parents the power to determine the best place for their child to go to school is crucial. This year, we think we could move closer to a funding system that reflects the number of students rather than simple district lines, consolidation of those district lines and a strengthening of our state's charter schools.
Fifth and finally, our state's ability to compete on a global stage is directly linked to our quality of life. One of the primary ways this is reflected lies in the way we look and feel as a state, and, accordingly we have proposed a one-time supplement of $50 million toward land conservation.
There are many other areas key to improving our chances of competing effectively in the 21st century, and if you would like to learn more or look for a way to get involved in our efforts, email us at email@example.com, or give me a call at (803) 734-2100.