Nikki Haley reviewed her six years as South Carolina’s governor during her final State of the State address Wednesday, touting bringing jobs to the Palmetto State, rebranding the state’s image and spending more on schools.
“Ladies and gentlemen, the state of our state is blessed,” Haley told lawmakers.
Haley, the first woman and first minority elected to lead South Carolina, is poised to resign as governor to join the Trump Administration. A confirmation hearing on her nomination to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations is set for next Wednesday.
Haley directly addressed Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster, who will become governor. “Your love of South Carolina gives me great comfort, as I know you cherish our state and its people, and I know you’ll take care of them.”
Much of Haley’s address was, in fact, a goodbye to South Carolina — “for now,” the Lexington Republican said.
Reaction from the GOP-controlled Legislature, with whom Haley frequently has squabbled, was subdued, seldom interrupting her with applause.
Success in jobs
Recounting her six years in office, Haley said an economic revival has taken place in South Carolina.
She touted her jobs record, saying her office has announced 85,613 new jobs and $21.5 billion in capital investment.
“Every single one of our 46 counties has seen new jobs,” Haley said. “Every one.”
She also highlighted her push for changes in the state’s K-12 education system, including holding back third graders who do not read proficiently and providing reading coaches.
Democrats said Republican Haley left key problems unsolved. State Rep. John King, D-York, said Haley is leaving office with S.C. roads and bridges crumbling, and without a solution to fully funding the state’s schools.
“Even though she is leaving, she could have still called on the Legislature to ... continue to work on education, work on roads and bridges and infrastructure, and economic development,” said King, chairman of the S.C. Legislative Black Caucus. “Unfortunately, we didn’t get that tonight.”
‘A Great Day in South Carolina’
Much of Haley’s speech was a pep talk.
She praised her alma mater, Clemson University, for its national football championship win Monday over Alabama. “If I wasn’t proud enough of this state already, our Clemson Tigers winning the national championship took it to a whole new level.”
She also praised the state’s improved image.
When she first ran for governor in 2010, Haley said she often heard people speaking negatively about South Carolina.
“Those were difficult words to hear,” Haley said. “This was the state that adopted my parents and the state that raised me.”
But, she added, “South Carolina was never the state it was portrayed to be. We are so much more than the punchline of a late-night joke. We always have been.”
As governor, Haley pushed for S.C. state employees to answer phones with: “It’s a Great Day in South Carolina, how may I help you?”
“They hated it,” Haley said Wednesday.
Now, Haley said she almost always hears her “Great Day” tagline wherever she speaks. “And they are right. Because it almost always is.”
But much of that greatness, she said, is due to the reaction of S.C. residents to hardships and tragedies— flooding, a hurricane, a huge fire, a police shooting and the Emanuel 9 massacre.
“I will remember how the good people of South Carolina responded to those tragedies, with love and generosity and compassion, and what that has meant for our state,” Haley said.
A new governor
McMaster is expected to bring a different style to the Governor’s Mansion.
Haley, for instance, has been criticized for being quick to blast those who don’t agree with her. McMaster, meanwhile, is known as an affable politician, and fellow Republicans in the GOP-controlled Legislature are hoping he will be more willing to compromise.
Haley said “it has been a little amusing” to read comparisons of the two state leaders, saying some have been accurate, others not. “(F)or clarity’s sake, here are two things I know for certain we have always shared: a love of South Carolina and a love of music,” Haley said.
Said McMaster, “We’re going to miss her.”
Haley’s UN confirmation hearing next Wednesday
S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley will appear before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee next Wednesday at 10 a.m. for a hearing on her nomination to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
Haley has said she will resign as governor once she is confirmed by the Senate for the post.