- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 21, 2015

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - While Gov. Nikki Haley’s proposal to raise the state’s gasoline tax by 10 cents will make headlines from her State of the State speech on Wednesday, the 40-minute speech made several other points.

Here are four more things the governor discussed, and the response to her speech by Democrats.

EDUCATION

In her re-election campaign, Haley promised to focus on education like she focused on bringing jobs to South Carolina in her first term.

In her speech Wednesday, Haley talked about ideas she said will help get and keep quality teachers in struggling rural districts. Those include paying for tuition at in-state colleges for students who want to become teachers in poor districts, especially ones where they went to school themselves.

Haley also offered to pay first-year teachers in these rural districts a pay bump that would advance their salary as if they had been teaching for five additional years.

“We want that shining star teaching in Lexington to decide it’s time to take on a new challenge and teach in Denmark, because nothing can ignite a child’s desire to learn quite like a great teacher,” Haley said.

ETHICS

After hammering lawmakers on failing to pass ethics reform in her first term at her inauguration last week, Haley said in her State of the State address that she has spoken about the issue enough.

“Many words have been spoken on this issue and much time wasted in these chambers with no result. I believe I have said all I need to. You all know exactly where I stand. Reform our ethics laws, restore the public’s faith in our government. Let’s do it right, and let’s do it now,” Haley said Wednesday.

Haley wants to see two things in any ethics bill passed this session. She wants to ends the practice of legislators investigating their colleagues and require them to disclose their income sources. Both the House and Senate have sent their own ethics bills to the floor of their chambers this week.

WORKFORCE TRAINING

Haley also announced a new initiative called Succeed. She said it will expand on the state’s existing training programs for large corporations such as Boeing and BMW, by helping more residents and smaller companies.

She gave few details beyond saying the state will pay upfront for classes to learn a certain skill a company needs, which the worker can repay after getting the job.

DEMOCRATIC RESPONSE

Democrats chose one of the governor’s biggest critics to give their response to her State of the State. But Sen. Joel Lourie in his speech after Haley’s remarks offered to compromise with the governor as he said she has made some wrong choices for the state in her first four years.

The Democrat of Columbia said it is illogical and senseless that South Carolina continues to refuse to accept federal money to expand Medicaid. He touched on Haley’s favorite theme during her re-election campaign, saying healthy workers make for more productive workers.

Lourie called for more money for education, the state to raise the minimum wage and a stronger ethics bill and domestic violence bill, without a lot of specifics.

“The answers are not overly complicated, and they should not be about what is best for either Democrats or Republicans, but what is best for South Carolina,” Lourie said. “My hope and my prayer is that this will be the year that common sense prevails.”

HALEY’S GUESTS

The Republican governor heaped praise on a Democrat as one of her guests. She honored Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. for his 40 years in office. He plans to step down next January.

“He has helped transform that city into the most popular destination in America, a crown jewel of not just our state, but of our nation,” Haley said. “He has decided to step down as mayor, but he will forever be remembered as one of South Carolina’s great gentlemen and devoted public servants.

Medal of Honor recipient Kyle Carpenter was also a guest. Carpenter’s parents were Haley’s guests in 2012 as he recovered from injuries he suffered shielding fellow soldiers from a grenade blast in Afghanistan.

She also honored Ann Edwards, the widow of Gov. James Edwards, who died in December.

Haley opened her speech as she traditionally does by reading the names of South Carolina soldiers, police officers and paramedics who died in the line of duty in 2014.

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Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at http://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP

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