This past week has been a busy one on our end, and I thought I’d write to let you know about a few of the things we’ve been doing.
On Monday, I visited a classroom that’s part of South Carolina’s Jobs for America’s Graduates program. JAG-SC is a dropout-prevention and prep program for high school students in about 20 schools organized by our Commerce Department – and it’s been a real success story. Absences have been cut almost in half and suspensions by a fourth, and graduation rates stand at 92 percent. All this has led to top national rankings for the organization and what I hope to be continued progress. At minimum it serves as yet another example of the way that increased choices in the classroom make for more staying in the classroom.
While I was down in Charleston on Tuesday, I was able to drop by a meeting of the State Ports Authority (it was Jim Newsome’s first meeting as the new CEO) and talk about future prospects for the Jasper Port, Daniel Island and Port Royal. Also that day I spoke to a meeting of the South Carolina Captive Insurance Association in Charleston, and also had some important meetings with people from around the state at another one of our ‘Open Door After Four’ sessions here in Columbia.
Also of note is that we sent a letter to our state’s Congressional delegation pushing back against some of the healthcare “reform” talk coming out of D.C., and pointing out that states – including South Carolina – will either have to raise taxes or make painful cuts to other services if the currently debated bill is successful and Medicaid is so radically expanded. Medicaid already represents 16 percent of our state budget, and if these so-called reforms go forward, that proportion could easily top 20 percent. I would ask you take the time to read it (download pdf here) and perhaps send a letter of your own because what is being talked about has major implications for South Carolina’s budget – and by extension your taxes over time.
On Wednesday, we announced the creation of the Broadband Advisory Committee in an effort to prioritize some of the $7.2 billion in federal grant money headed our way. We’ve consistently advocated the need for greater broadband access to improve our economic environment, and although we still think the stimulus bill was a mistake, our responsibility now is to prioritize those funds for the state’s maximum benefit.
Also on Wednesday, I headed to the Lowcountry and got a tour of the new recruitment building at the Colleton County Development Park, and discussed with leaders down that way the potential for a new Quick Jobs Center – so our Commerce Department can bring skills training closer to residents that are looking for a job.
On Thursday, while in Lancaster, I stopped by the USC campus there, where I learned a little bit more about USC-L from Dean John Catalano, Sen. Mick Mulvaney, and our administration’s newly appointed USC trustee Greg Gregory.
Our office also took the commonsense step of issuing an executive order moving the federally funded BabyNet program – for developmentally challenged infants and toddlers – from DHEC to First Steps to School Readiness. We believe BabyNet is more in line with the core mission of First Steps, and that this move makes sense for the children and parents affected.
Earlier today I stopped by a small tech business in the Upstate, as well as Nodine’s Family Restaurant for lunch to hear more on ideas that might make a difference in improving the soil conditions for small businesses in our state. And tomorrow I plan on running in the US Marine Corps’ Mud Run over at Fort Jackson with my son Bolton.
On top of all this, I was privileged this week to speak to groups of community leaders in Beaufort, Lancaster, Fort Mill and Hilton Head, where I found – once again – that people are a lot more interested in what’s going to happen during the next legislative session than in the latest political gossip.
Thanks for all you do to better our state, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts when our paths cross next. Take care.