Gov. Mark Sanford speaks to South Carolina - - Columbia, South Carolina

Gov. Mark Sanford speaks to South Carolina

(Columbia-AP) Jan. 22, 2004 - Governor Mark Sanford told South Carolina lawmakers he hoped to reduce the state income tax rate, introduce a universal tax credit for education to give parents more choice and get more people in the Palmetto State up off the couch and moving.

Sanford addressed legislators in the Statehouse on Wednesday evening in his second State of the State Address. His speech lasted about 50 minutes. The governor already laid out many of his priorities when he released his first executive budget earlier this month. Read budget highlights (Adobe required). Read full budget (Adobe required).

Sanford opened by reminding people that because the state was strapped for cash, "I said last year I wished I was assuming leadership of a state whose budget was sound, but everyone in this chamber knew it was not. We begin this year with a $350 million shortfall." 

He said he couldn't focus on more money for programs but on five root causes: whether people had a voice in state government and was the government accountable; the economy and need for wealth creation; government's structure; education; and quality of life.

The Republican governor says he plans to focus on that every year he's in office. He says money again won't be forthcoming for programs, so he says the best shot at raising income levels in lies in government using new tools and new approaches. He says that is what he finds so encouraging about what he started over the past year.

High on the list was reducing the state income tax rate, "Our income tax is effectively the highest income tax rate in the entire southeast and that’s rough on families, workers and retirees in South Carolina. I passionately believe that cutting the income tax will stimulate job growth in this state."

Sanford says he wants to have an open discussion on how to improve education. One way he plans to implement improvement, "Next month I’ll be announcing one of those new ideas – a universal tax credit for education. Along with reforms we’ve already talked about on charter schools and making sure money gets down to teachers, the goal of this plan is simple: open up the education marketplace by giving parents more choices."

Governor Sanford also spoke about domestic violence. One study shows South Carolina led the nation in 2001 in the rate of women killed by men. The Palmetto State consistently ranks near the top in that dubious honor.

Sanford noted the strengthening of domestic violence laws under his adminstration. He also called on South Carolina men to make a change, "I'd ask every South Carolina man to work as individuals to change South Carolina's deplorable statistics on the domestic violence front."

The governor also said he wanted it mandatory for most inmates to participate in education programs.

Sanford closed with a plea to South Carolinians to get active. He asked residents to walk, run or canoe 300 miles this year, "That’s only eight-tenths of a mile per day. It’s something  you can do. It’ll make a difference in your life. It’ll make a difference in the health care system in South Carolina." The governor invited anyone interested to join he and his family on a bike ride across the state.

updated 8:07am by BrettWitt with AP

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