By Linda H. Lamb
Gov. Henry D. McMaster and state Rep. James E. Smith Jr., both born in Columbia but 20 years apart, took different paths to the Nov. 6 governor’s race.
Republican McMaster, 71, a lawyer, served as attorney general and, as lieutenant governor, head of the state Office on Aging.
Democrat Smith, 51, a lawyer and state representative, served in the military and was awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.
While the legislature is the dominant force in state government, the governor has an important role in focusing attention on particular issues, said Teresa Arnold, state director for AARP South Carolina.
Work and Save, a state-backed program to allow smaller businesses to offer retirement savings plans similar to 401(k)s, is AARP South Carolina’s top priority for the legislative session that starts in January. About 60 percent of the state’s employers don’t offer retirement plans, and 401(k) savings are the lowest in the nation, according to Arnold.
In public statements and interviews, McMaster and Smith answered questions about key issues for older voters.
Work and save
McMaster: “Workers should have access to retirement savings options.” But he wants to make sure the program won’t add onerous mandates for small businesses.
Smith: “I know we can actually pass and implement the Work and Save initiative.” Enactment of the state’s college savings plan is a blueprint for getting it done, he said.
McMaster: “This is an area that is perfect for private, individual, corporate and charitable initiatives to provide services to those who need it—in particular, older residents.”
Smith: “I would support legislation that would help end the senior hunger crisis in the Palmetto State and will work with the legislature to get a bill passed.”
Access to health care
Both candidates support expanding the work of nurse practitioners, who broaden access to health care. They disagree on expanding Medicaid to more lower-income residents.
McMaster: He has opposed Medicaid expansion and said that under the Affordable Care Act, “costs went up and access went down.” To increase access to care, he favors private transportation programs, such as those provided by nonprofits.
Smith: “We should expand Medicaid. I will do that on my first day as governor.” He said an influx of more federal funds would reduce medical costs, rescue some smaller hospitals and doctors’ offices and boost the state’s economy by adding jobs.
Adult protective services
McMaster: The governor’s budget requested $2.7 million in extra funding for Adult Protective Services, but it was not included in the budget the legislature passed in June. “We’ve got to put more money in it,” he said. McMaster wants more private entities, such as churches, businesses and schools, to support services for older and disabled residents.
Smith: “I am committed to making sure the Adult Protective Services system... has the resources needed to protect our vulnerable adults.” He pointed to AARP’s reporting that abuse and neglect of elderly and disabled residents increased 140 percent from 2010 to 2016.
AARP is nonpartisan and doesn’t endorse candidates. For more information, go to facebook.com/AARPSC.
Linda H. Lamb is a writer living in Columbia.