UNION — The current lieutenant governor of South Carolina is hoping to become the state’s next governor and implement a wide-ranging reform agenda and on Tuesday, February 20 he brought his campaign and presented his agenda to the Union County Republican Party.
Lt. Gov. Kevin Bryant is running for the Republican nomination for governor, the office currently held by fellow Republican Henry McMaster who is also running for the GOP nomination.
On Tuesday, Bryant addressed a meeting of the Union County Republican Party in the conference room of the USC Union Central Building. In both his formal address and a subsequent question and answer session, Bryant spoke about the issues he is running on including the need for ethics reform. Bryant said such reform must include improving transparency in state government and strengthening the state’s ethics laws. He pointed to the political corruption scandal the state has experienced recently, calling it a national embarrassment and an insult to the integrity of South Carolinians.
In his push for reform in state government, Bryant also proposes making the SC Department of Transportation a cabinet-level agency. He said that doing so will increase accountability in the department so that the public will know who to hold accountable for the department’s actions.
Bryant said that this reform is even more important given the recent increase in the state gasoline tax. Describing the increase as as the largest tax increase in the state’s history, Bryant said it will not fix the state’s roads until the political favoritism which currently determines how the revenue raised by the gasoline is spent is eliminated.
Another reform that Bryant said he wants to see is requiring voters to register by party. Bryant said this is needed, first, to protect the integrity of the will of the voters. Secondly, Bryant said this will lead to the dismantling of what he called the RINO (Republican In Name Only)-crat majority that he said is guarding the gate for liberalism in South Carolina.
Bryant also called for reform in the state’s pension system which he said should be converted over to a defined contribution plan similar to a 401K. He said the new system would apply to new employees while the state would continue to honor the commitments it has already made to both current and prior employees.
In the area health care, Bryant said he supports allowing insurance to be purchased across state lines. Bryant said he also supports the implementation of a sliding scale of benefits for Medicaid recipients. He said he also favors work requirements which he said would protect taxpayers while expanding access to coverage. Bryant said the goal is to help Medicaid recipients continue to receive coverage while also helping them gain employment that can eventually enable them to become self-sufficient and get off government assistance.
On senior care, Bryant said he wants to increase access to home care for seniors and address the shortage of professionally trained care providers.
In the area of education, Bryant wants to, first, expand school choice for South Carolina families. He also wants to make the Secretary of Education a cabinet-level position which he said would streamline decision-making and improve accountability in the department.
During the question and answer session, Bryant was asked about a proposal that recipients of public assistance be required to take and pass a drug test in order to keep receiving that assistance. Bryant was also asked if he would support requiring all public employees and members of the legislature to undergo drug testing as well. He said he would support requiring the recipients of public assistance as well as public officials and legislators to undergo drug testing.
Bryant was also asked about the efforts of Dominion Energy to acquire/merge with SCANA and its offer of a $1,000 rebate to SCANA customers. He said the public and the state should be very cautious about this and look at the details of the proposal before they embrace it, details that he said would show rate increases and potential rate increases that would cost customers more than the $1,000 they would be getting back.
In addition, Bryant said the state has $9 billion invested in two unfinished nuclear reactors that will in all likelihood never be completed. Bryant said that while SCANA wants to sell of the parts of the unfinished reactors he favors spending $15 million to maintain them for a few years to see if the market once again makes nuclear power more economically feasible enabling the state to possibly recoup its investment.
On the issue of Santee-Cooper, Bryant said he doesn’t believe the state should be in the energy business and feels it should eventually be sold. While he feels it should be sold, Bryant said he does not favor doing it immediately, but instead being done down the road when market conditions will best favor both the taxpayer and the ratepayer. He said that ultimately he favors South Carolinians getting their power from the market instead of the government.
The Republican and Democratic primaries for statewide, legislative, and local partisan offices will be held June 12. The general election for both partisan and non-partisan offices will be held Nov. 6.
Charles Warner can be reached at 864-762-4090.