WINNSBORO — Revolt against the status quo when it comes to state government. That is the theme of Sen. Vincent Sheheen’s new book, The Right Way: Getting the Palmetto State Back on Track, but where his Tea Party colleagues counter with obstructionist ideology, Sheheen calls state leaders to pursue substantive, nonpartisan solutions to problems.
Sheheen took an honest appraisal of the state of our state. The result was a 128-page book that calls on Democrats and Republicans to work together and hold one another accountable for pragmatic results.
He confessed he can be a “policy geek” sometimes but he likes to write. He said his book provided a platform, not for sound bites, but for substantive dialogue about policies.
He looked back at big ideas he’d had over the years in articles and journals and compiled those into a book. A key focus is on rural community job creation. He also examined the need for upgrading roads and bridges in rural South Carolina. He looked to other similar states for new ideas, too.
In a world of what he termed sound bite politics, Sheheen felt his book would reach beyond that arena. In so doing, he criticized decades of South Carolina leadership from both Republican and Democrat governors.
Sheheen wrote that the state needs to return to the pragmatic coalition building of Gov. Carol Campbell and the pro-education, long term strategic policies of Gov. Dick Riley.
During Campbell and Riley’s tenures, South Carolina had some of its lowest unemployment rates and made forward strides, according to Sheheen.
“Now we have seen no new systemic progress toward education or the unemployment rate,” he said. Median income declined in South Carolina. His book and media platform called on leadership to realize they are not just in politics for themselves and for self promotion but are in the business of promotion of South Carolina.
“There is a need for job growth, more than just recruiting industry to our state,” he said. Helping existing industry, helping start up companies and working with small businesses within the department of commerce are ideas he believes whose time has come.
On taxes he wants to prioritize funding, one of the touchstones in the book. His intent is not to raise tax rates but to build stability and fairness into the current tax system. In Sheheen’s view the single greatest detriment to business growth within our state is its antiquated tax program. Property taxes are heavily placed on business properties.
He wants to look to sales tax exemptions and modify them to make the system fairer by reallocating hundreds of millions of dollars and to have a low statewide property tax that would spread across the state and create a more positive environment for business growth.
South Carolina has many needs in rural infrastructure, especially roads and bridges. Sheheen has the goal of fixing and enlarging existing roads first and using resources to construct new ones second. He also seeks ideas on expanding water and sewer infrastructure in rural areas, which is a key concern in local Fairfield County politics.
Sheheen discussed dangers of a one party majority rule and pointed to Operation Lost Trust under democratic leadership and to recent corruption scandals such as with former Lt. Gov. Ken Ard as proof of absolute power corrupting absolutely.
“Real leaders have a responsibility and opportunity so use new media sources to bring people together,” he said.
He mentioned his website and Facebook presence and that the book sales are not about making money. He gives the book away free as online electronic copies. Instead he is looking for substance and access to ideas.
His goal is to generate dialogue with others in the state. Which of these areas might people agree to change for the greater good?
“I believe government should work. We need to put our taxes to purposes that are useful and have a wise use of tax dollars,” he said.
Sheheen believes some statewide elected offices are antiquated and can be done away with or at least be changed so they are appointed rather than elected.
Primer or platform?
Sheheen said he is contemplating another run for governor but that this book needed to be written regardless of a gubernatorial run. He hopes the book and the media surrounding it will encourage constituents and colleagues to discuss issues in a more honest, productive way that will elevate the state.
Contact Kevin Boozer at 635-4016 ext. 14 or email@example.com and follow him on Twitter at @kevinboozer.