Candidates for SC governor give business leaders very different messages

ashain@thestate.comJanuary 15, 2014 

S.C. Sen. Vincent Sheheen (left) and S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley

South Carolina’s likely candidates for governor – Republican Gov. Nikki Haley and Democratic state Sen. Vincent Sheheen – spoke only two hours apart Tuesday at a statewide pro-business group’s annual meeting. But the tone of their speeches, before the S.C. Business & Industry Political Education Committee in Columbia, was much farther apart.

Haley went over her successes in the happy, energetic fashion that she gives in most talks. Sheheen, on the other hand, gave a sermon-like speech to the rather stoic audience, saying South Carolina was suffering from a lack of leadership.

“I’m tired of moving around the edges and the margins of change in South Carolina,” the Camden attorney told business leaders. “I’m tired of us pretending that things are OK in the state when they’re not. The truth is that we have a government in South Carolina that’s not very good.”

Sheheen said leaders should be held accountable, citing examples of where, he said, Haley fell short.

He attacked the Republican governor’s initial reaction to the state Department of Revenue data breach, saying no one was to blame and nothing could have prevented the hacking. The agency’s director left after an investigation found the department did not have adequate security for taxpayer data.

Sheheen criticized Haley’s refusal to expand Medicaid, saying Haley put “political ideology – or the games you want to play” – over adding 44,000 jobs for the state and putting 200,000 South Carolinians on insurance rolls. Haley said expanding Medicaid, as part of the Affordable Health Care Act, would be too costly for the state.

Afterward, Sheheen downplayed the suggestion that his speech was more emphatic than others, saying he was trying to make a point with the business leaders. “It was important for me today to make sure the insiders heard what I hear across South Carolina.”

Haley did not mention Sheheen in her talk.

The governor said that she has given the state a plan for economic success in her first term that includes less regulation, more job recruitment and a plan to improve education.

Haley said she worked to add business leaders to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control’s board with the directive to move economic projects forward. “If you are costing a person time, you are costing them money and that is no longer acceptable in South Carolina,” she said.

Haley also touted her record of announcing 43,000 jobs during her tenure — though her office has not said how many of those positions have been filled. More announcements are coming, she said. “The funnel is full.”

Haley said her $177 million education plan, which includes more money for poorer school districts and improved technology, is crucial to building business. Haley said manufacturers she met during an auto show in Germany last year asked her about the quality of K-12 education.

She also said she has worked to find creative solutions to problems that she said have been created by Washington. State health officials, for example, are working with hospitals to find doctors for Medicaid patients who go to emergency rooms.

“We can’t say ‘No’ to Obamacare. We can’t say ‘No’ to Medicaid expansion,” she said. “We have to say ‘Yes’ to something.”

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