McMaster’s Inaugural Address Promises Reforms for Education, Taxes, Business

Republican Gov. Henry McMaster pledged in his inaugural address to reform the state’s tax code, made a commitment to the K-12 school system and vowed to invest in a skilled workforce for “prosperity and happiness” in the Palmetto State on Wednesday morning. He spelled out that tax reform is critical to the state’s “continued economic prosperity.” “It requires reforming our state’s marginal income and corporate tax rates to keep South Carolina competitive for jobs, investment and talent,” McMaster said. While the state’s $1 billion budget surplus will be spent on areas of need, he intends that a portion of the funds will be rebated to taxpayers. “To continue and accelerate this economic prosperity, we must keep taxes low, eliminate suffocating regulations, and invest in infrastructure,” McMaster said. “Surpluses in state government revenues don’t mean we have to spend it all; it means prioritizing the most critical needs then rebating what’s not needed back to the taxpayers.” There was also an environmental message of protecting the coastline and addressing flooding. McMaster, 71, has been governor since 2017 when he was elevated from his lieutenant governor post after Nikki Haley was appointed U.N. ambassador. His lieutenant governor is Travelers Rest accountant and businesswoman Pamela Evette. Read the governor’s full remarks here.

Daniel Island’s Benefitfocus Was 2018 SC Stock Winner, but Blackbaud Lost Big Ground

While 2018 ended with 6% of the value knocked of the S&P 500, South Carolina’s 18 publicly traded companies lost 3.7%, and seven of those companies saw gains. Benefitfocus Inc., the Daniel Island-based firm that designs software for employees to manage health insurance and other benefits, saw shares rally in November after a report of revenue growth and ended the year up 71%. Blackbaud Inc., which had a standout 2017 with its software and services for nonprofits, saw its shares surpass $120 in July but ended the year below $63, in part to a lower-than-expected 2018 sales and profit forecast in October. Of the state’s six publicly traded banks, only Charleston’s Bank of South Carolina Inc., the smallest of the group, saw a profit; Columbia-based South State Corp. lost 31% of its value. SCANA Corp., which completed its merger and buyout from Virginia-based Dominion Energy, saw its shares rise 23% over the year until its trading was stopped.

As 915 Charleston County Employees Hold Purchase Cards, Procedures Urged to Avoid Abuse

There are 915 employees of Charleston County who have been issued purchase cards, which represents nearly half its workforce — and about three times as many cardholders as Massachusetts’ state government. While this can be convenient in reducing paperwork and the bureaucracy required in granting permission for purchases, it increases the risk management for abuses inadvertent and overt. “The more cards you have, the more auditing and training you need to do,” said Rick Grimm, chief executive officer of the National Institute of Governmental Purchasing. Grimm suggested that government agencies require banks to set spending limits and not allow certain categories of purchases, such as entertainment, meals and alcohol. In one ongoing Charleston County case that sparked investigations of purchasing in other departments, a 12-year veteran of the Emergency Management Department who was in charge of approving the purchase card use of other employees was charged with embezzlement of public funds when an audit showed nearly $25,000 in charges for herself that has been complicated by a lack of receipts and the “intermingling of personal and business purchases.”

Study: SC is Among Bottom 10 States to Raise a Family

South Carolina is ranked at No. 43 among states to raise a family, according to an annual study by personal finance website WalletHub.com, which placed the Palmetto State at No. 44 last year. The results are based on 42 indicators, including child care costs, housing affordability, life expectancy, salary and unemployment. Among the bright spots are SC’s rankings for child care costs (3rd), paid family leave (4th) and job security (11th). The South is home to seven of the 10 worst-performing states. “Families do well when they live in communities with economic opportunity, quality education systems and the social fabric that wraps love and support around parents when they may be vulnerable,” Children’s Trust of South Carolina CEO Sue Williams told The Greenville News. “We have work to do in our state to ensure that children and families have the opportunities they need to succeed.”

National Champion Clemson Ranks 26th in Valuation of College Football Programs; Gamecocks are No. 17

As dominant as Clemson looked in romping past Alabama, 44-16, in the College Football Playoff championship game and a 15-0 record, the Tigers accomplished this with a program that has 25 schools ahead of it with more financial power. Clemson’s 2018 valuation is $298,051,865 on more than $72M of revenue, according to an annual study by an associate professor of finance at Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus, and a drop from its 2017 valuation of more than $328M. The South Carolina Gamecocks placed 17th (ahead of Iowa but behind Arkansas) with a valuation of $460M on $101.3M in revenue. Texas was ranked the most valuable program at $1.1B, breaking Ohio State’s three-year run atop the list. The Crimson Tide, runners-up to Clemson on the field, was valued third at just over $1B.