By South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford

In today's world we're in a global race for jobs, capital and ultimately way of life with the other six and a half billion souls on Earth, and I have talked fairly incessantly over the last few years about what we all know at a gut level: that change is real. Indeed, change is here, and therefore we can't keep doing things as we've always done them in South Carolina government and thrive in today's world.

It is a long way from NASCAR's idea of fixing an engine, but many of us grew up seeing cars parked underneath big oak trees, which allowed their owners to pull the engine for repair with a chain and a hoist. The legislative session we're now in represents this year's chance to better tune the way things work in South Carolina. It also represents an opportunity for each one of us to grab a wrench and lend a hand. I write to ask that you join us in this year's engine work, and to list a few things that are at the top of our work list.

One, we believe we ought to take steps each year to better the soil conditions for business. Worker's compensation rates in South Carolina are robbing people of jobs and economic opportunity. Our system is so broken that, for instance, in the Second Injury Fund our assessments are 10 times that of California's—though California's population is 10 times bigger than ours.

We also believe we should take steps this year to both lower the income tax and help small businesses in offering health care plans to their workers. We have the highest marginal income tax rate in the Southeast and as recently as Thursday The Wall Street Journal highlighted a number of states that are in the process of making their rates more competitive. Health care inflation has proven to be nearly as deadly to small businesses as worker's comp is in thwarting growth and job creation opportunities.

Two, the structure of our government is fatally flawed in the way that responsibility for outcomes falls to groups of people rather than one person or branch of government—and if everyone is responsible, no one is responsible. Can you imagine BMW or, for that matter, Strange Brothers Grading Co. being able to function if the president, vice president, operations manager and sales manager were all independently elected by different groups and each one of them wanted to go in a different direction? This elaborately diffused structure reduces the overall effectiveness of South Carolina's government, and increases its cost. On the top of our list here is Department of Transportation reform, where this administration's appointee, Tee Hooper, has already made a tremendous contribution in forcing a debate on the need for change.

Three, we believe spending still matters—and how much of your paycheck government takes each day also impacts the competitiveness of South Carolina's economy. We aim to limit government's growth to population plus inflation so that we can limit taxes and begin the process of paying down $9.3 billion in unfunded government promises. South Carolina spending led the Southeast over the last two years with 25 percent growth—versus a Southeastern average half that number. In total, government spending has risen from $15.5 billion to $19.4 billion over the last three years—well beyond the growth of people's wallets and pocketbooks.

Finally, as we all know man doesn't live by bread alone. We, therefore, think it's important to take steps each year to better quality of life in our state. The top three things on our list this year are DUI reform, further education reform and $20 million for land conservation. In looking at DUI reform, people should never forget that Tony Howard, a resident of the Upstate, died because of our weak DUI laws as he was killed by a drunken driver who had already wracked up seven convictions—but was still allowed on our roads.

The space here won't allow for real detail on what we propose in consolidating health agencies so that people in need get more effective care, or in the merits of a weighted pupil average and the chance to expand educational choices in our state. So I ask two things.

  • To explore fuller details of all the things we're working on this year, please log on to www.scgovernor.com.

  • Please be sure to grab a wrench. God makes us all different. He gives us different talents and interests, but for things to change we all need to be participants in some aspect of bringing change to South Carolina. In my Inaugural, I said the keys to change are in our collective hands. It was true then and it's true today. I hope you'll join us.

Mr. Sanford's Web site is www.scgovernor.com.

The above content reflects the opinions of the author and not necessarily the policies of the National Governors Association.