Gov. Nikki Haley touted how South Carolina, not Washington, has the answers to help the state’s economy, schools and medical care in her State of the State address Wednesday.
Midway through her first term, the Lexington Republican promoted her record on job creation and cutting small-business taxes, and asked lawmakers to back her proposals to slice regulation and cut more taxes to stimulate economic growth.
Haley also reiterated her opposition to the Obama administration’s health care plan and managed a poke at a defeated political nemesis when discussing government restructuring.
She received some of her biggest applause when she welcomed the quarterbacks from South Carolina and Clemson, which both posted 11-win football seasons.
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And Haley noted the absence of her husband, Michael, who left last week for a yearlong S.C. National Guard deployment to Afghanistan.
She thanked South Carolinians “for the many prayers and messages of support that have been sent to our family. It has given us strength and inspiration.”
A gubernatorial task force to cut state regulations was the major new proposal that Haley raised in her 48-minute speech. She said the group will include appointees by House and Senate leaders as well as members of the business community.
In addition to the task force, Haley said she will direct Cabinet agencies to review trimming regulations.
“If government is costing a business time, then government is costing that business money,” she said.
With education, Haley said she wants to look beyond private school vouchers for solutions.
“I am not by nature a patient person, but I know from painful experience that the General Assembly is a body that does not often move quickly,” she said. “So I figure let’s start with a constructive conversation, rather than a controversial piece of legislation, and let’s see where that takes us.”
Haley said she wants to meet with Senate Education chairman John Courson, R-Richland, House Education chairman Phil Owens, R-Pickens, and Senate Minority Leader Nikki Setzler, D-Lexington.
In addressing the biggest crisis of her two years in office, Haley thanked legislative leaders for backing her solutions so far to aiding the 6.4 million consumers and businesses whose financial information was stolen by hackers from the S.C. Department of Revenue.
“The state of South Carolina should have done better in the past and will do better in the future,” she said. “That does not mean that we will be 100 percent protected. ... What it does mean is that we will do everything we can to make sure that no state in the country has better security measures in place than we do.”
Haley called the Affordable Care Act a “public-policy disaster” that does not allow the state flexibility and is too costly for South Carolina.
“The federal government likes to wave around a $9 match (for every $1 from the state) like it is some silver bullet, some extraordinary benefit that we cannot pass up,” she said. “But what good do the nine dollars do us when we can’t come up with the one?”
With an eye toward 2014, when she will seek a second term, Haley touted the economic successes in her first two years in office, adding 31,574 new jobs and more than $6 billion in new investment in the state. And she said she doesn’t expect answers from Congress.
“Through the financial crisis and the deep recession that followed, we have watched Washington flounder on both sides of the aisle, bouncing from one so-called solution to another,” she said. “The result of our federal government’s incompetence has been predictably poor: a stagnant recovery, listless jobs numbers, rising unemployment.”
Haley asked lawmakers to approve several proposals from her executive budget, including eliminating the state’s 6 percent income tax rate and using $90 million to help improve the state’s roads and bridges – calling the work an economic development issue.
But she said she will not support raising the state gas tax.
“The answer to our infrastructure problems is not to tax our people more, it’s to spend their money smarter,” she said.
Haley made another pitch for a Department of Administration that would put more government functions under the governor and eliminate the State Budget and Control Board. With a bit of frustration, she detailed how a government restructuring bill failed to get a vote on the final day of the legislative session last year despite winning earlier support.
“One might even think that some wanted to be on the record in favor of it while at the same time trying desperately to stop it from happening,” Haley said.
Then, she welcomed new state Sen. Katrina Shealy, a Lexington Republican and Haley ally. In November, Shealy defeated Sen. Jake Knotts, a nemesis of the governor’s who helped stop that final vote on restructuring.
“Sen. Shealy represents one less excuse for those who don’t want to change the wasteful and inefficient way state government operates,” Haley said. “There are no more excuses left.”
The Democrats’ response to the State of the State came from Jill Moylan, who owns a Columbia real estate agency. Moylan said she was disappointed with the data breach, Haley’s opposition to health care reform and the lack of improvement in the state economy.
Moylan said a decade of Republican control in the State House and Governor’s Mansion means, “There is no one left to blame.”
“We need leaders who can make government work for all of us,” she said. “We need to recognize that no single party has a monopoly on good ideas, and that Democrats and Republicans must all work together.”