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Sheheen speaks to Golden Club of Kershaw County

Posted: November 8, 2013 4:37 p.m.
Updated: November 11, 2013 5:00 a.m.

Democratic State Sen. Vincent Sheheen, of Camden, brought his gubernatorial campaign home Thursday, speaking to a meeting of the Golden Club of Kershaw County.

“It’s good to be with friends,” Sheheen said to an audience of familiar faces.

Sheheen said that for the past year he’s traveled “all over South Carolina,” but assured the club that “this is the best place to live.” He thanked the community for the opportunities it has given him and his family and says he is thankful for the “continuity” of such a place.

Sheheen said he wanted to talk about some issues that face South Carolina.

“Our state has the best people in America, it has some of the best locations that God has -- not just in the United States, but on the planet … we’re a state that should be living up to our full potential, and I’m disappointed when we’re not,” he said.

Sheheen discussed his self-published book, The Right Way: Getting the Palmetto State Back on Track. From the book, he shared four key issues to “improve the state if we could all just work together.” Sheheen said the book is for South Carolinians, Republicans, Democrats and everyone in between.

Before delving into the four points of interest, he said that even if South Carolinians heeded every bit of advice offered in his book, there is not much that can be done as far as improving the state “if we don’t have good leaders.”

“When I drive up I-95 into South Carolina from Georgia, everything is moving smoothly … and I hit the border of South Carolina, we should be ashamed that you immediately hit a traffic stop and have to slow down,” Sheheen said. “That you shrink from six lanes to four lanes; that you take your life -- at least your car’s life -- into your hands as you hit the potholes and the divots on I-95, because that’s the image people have of this state right now.”

Sheheen said he brought this topic up because it’s an investment that has to be made in the infrastructure of the state. He then moved on to public education in the state.

“It’s not about gimmicks,” he said. “It’s not a bunch of standardized tests that leads to success. It’s not vouchers that leads to success.”

Sheheen said that, recently, “gimmicks” in education have been popular, which inhibits the ability of teachers to teach.

“We know what works … common sense solutions like smaller class sizes, retaining teachers who teach well by paying them well and making it easier to get rid of the ones who aren’t. It’s all-day, all-year available schools for children in the summers who are sitting in front of TV sets … and it’s early childhood education,” he said.

He also stressed that early childhood education is a major factor in the success of any educational system.

“We can do it with the budget we have now,” Sheheen said, adding that taxes would not have to be raised to augment early childhood education programs.

Returning to the issue of improving roadways in the state, Sheheen also discussed the necessity for more state troopers to ensure the safety of drivers on the interstate.

“We need to have decent roads, we need to have decent bridges, we need to have a real law enforcement present out there who we pay decent wages because of what we expect from them,” Sheheen said.

He then said a change is needed in state government.

“We need a government that works, that’s structured well,” he said. “We empowered the governor’s office, so the office is now in charge of Department of Social Services, Department of Health, Department of Revenue, almost every state agency in South Carolina … the governor appoints the director that runs it. The reason we do that is so we have accountability, so when our elected officials screw up, we can vote them out of office. So, when you have a hacking scandal that allows over 3 million people to have their personal Social Security number and identity stolen, you know who to hold accountable. That’s why we empowered the governor’s office -- to hold our leaders accountable.”

Sheheen continued on the subject of roads, saying they are “just a symptom of the problem.

“And the problem is that our leaders care more about themselves and their own political careers than they do our state. If you don’t believe me, think about Mark Sanford’s trip to Argentina,” Sheheen said.

He said he is tired of being embarrassed by the leadership of South Carolina.

“It’s not right and we shouldn’t accept it. We can do a lot better than that,” he said.

The final point Sheheen touched on was tax reform.

“Right now in South Carolina, we have the highest industrial property tax rate in America. We talk about recruiting business, but when you have the highest tax rate in the country it’s a big disincentive,” Sheheen said. “Right now in South Carolina, we have one of the highest unemployment rates in America. We have seen a declining average income over the last three years, one of the only states to see that our incomes on average have declined. That is not a good trend line for economic success and development. Yet, we work hard. We work hard from the executive branch and down.”

Sheheen said profits from manufacturing facilities leave the state and go to other parts of the country. He said South Carolina recruits business, which does provide jobs, but that the money leaves South Carolina, turning residents into “sharecroppers.”

“We have all the makings of the best state in America…those successes occurred when you had people working together,” he said, adding that Democrats and Republicans have worked together in SC’s past to increase progress,” he said.

Sheheen closed by answering audience’s questions and reiterating his ardent resolve to foster public education and economic growth and retention in the state.

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