I don’t have time today to go into great depth on this, but I thought I’d share several scattered thoughts I had about the governor’s speech and reactions to it, each of which could be developed into an extensive post on its own:
- I was pleased that she was willing to share credit on the Department of Administration bill with Vincent Sheheen. Yeah, she did it in a backhanded way, mentioning him in the middle of a list of eight people “who have been down in the trenches fighting to make this a reality,” when in truth this bill started with Sen. Sheheen years before she got involved with it. But the fact that she gave him praise and credit at all makes her look a lot more honest and generous than this mean-sounding passage from Sheheen’s own statement about passage of the bill: “South Carolinians have had to wait long enough for the accountability they deserve from Governor Haley and her administration. I urge the Governor to sign my bill immediately.” As though she was reluctant or something, which obviously she was not. This tone is unlike Vincent Sheheen, and unlikely to help him unseat the governor.
- Yeah, the governor has been taking her responsibility to govern far more seriously lately — for which I’ve praised her here (while Dems grumble about too little, too late). She’s the first governor in decades to seriously address funding equity for public schools, she wants to do more for the mentally ill, and she’s decided to drop her politically convenient Kulturkampf against the arts in SC. But unfortunately, she hasn’t dropped the intellectually offensive, neo-Confederate-style rhetoric aimed at feeding the delusions of her Tea Party base: “it is my firm belief that the federal government causes far more harm to South Carolina than good… Those running the federal government make our job more difficult, day in and day out. Unfortunately, that is simply the reality we are faced with…. We rejected the federal government’s less than generous offer to run a state exchange, an offer that would have Washington bureaucrats dictating the exchange and South Carolinians paying for it. And, with your help, we emphatically said no to the central component of Obamacare, the expansion of a broken Medicaid program that is already cannibalizing our budget, and would completely destroy it in the years to come.” Her Medicaid assertions add up to one huge lie, and her refusal, along with that of legislative leaders, to refuse the expansion is the single most indefensible failure of leadership in her tenure. It was deeply immoral, pound-foolish, a drag on the state’s economy, and the biggest case of placing ideology over serving the public that I have seen in many a year in this state. She likes to talk about job growth, but not about the thousands of healthcare jobs that the federally funded expansion would have brought, and which she turned away.
- I liked it that she quoted the father of her party, Abraham Lincoln. We don’t hear enough of that from Republicans these days, particularly not Tea Party Republicans, and most particularly not Southern Tea Party Republicans.
- She said, “Our tax code needs to be simpler, flatter, and fairer.” Well, it certainly needs to be simpler and fairer. In fact, the whole system needs to be scrapped and rebuilt. But there is no way that the main thing we need in South Carolina is tax cuts, despite the fact that Republicans have come to Columbia ever since they took control of the House in 1994 with the firm belief that that’s pretty much all the state does need. James Smith criticized her for wanting to fund road maintenance with found money (I think that’s what he meant with his “money tree” thing), rather than dedicating a reliable revenue source. Her promise to veto any gas tax increase is an immature cry against rational policy. To say you want to improve roads and won’t consider the tax increase to pay for it is governance by ideological fantasy. And if she wants to help business, then push to get lawmakers to reverse the effects of Act 388, which as I’ve written before ” distorted our whole tax system — putting an excessive burden on businesses and renters, and shifting the load for supporting public schools onto the volatile, exemption-ridden sales tax — for the sake of the subset of homeowners who lived in high-growth areas.” Act 388, by the way, was one of the big reasons why the state Chamber backed Sheheen, rather than Rep. Haley, in the 2010 election.
- She was also generous and bipartisan in crediting the lawmakers who helped her come up with her new approach on education funding — “Senator John Courson, Senator Wes Hayes, Senator John Matthews, Senator Nikki Setzler, Representative Kenny Bingham, Representative Jackie Hayes, and Representative Phil Owens.”
- In the moments after the speech, as ETV got reaction from lawmakers in the chamber, someone (I missed the name; I was busy as I listened) was talking about government waste, and mentioned once again the “Green Bean Museum.” Apparently, there have been no instances of “government waste” in the six years or so since that one came up, because it remains everybody’s first example for “proving” their belief that all government does is run around looking for things to waste our money on. Let me give a little perspective on that — Lake City sought funding for restoring a building that is a great source of local pride, the Bean Market. Trucks and trains came from all over the country to drive through that building and pick up green beans, as this was the biggest distribution point for that commodity in the region, and perhaps in the nation (I forget which). Fixing it up was related to Darla Moore’s desire to spark a renaissance in her hometown. The request didn’t come out of nowhere; it was one of a large number of purely local projects competing for money from a fund dedicated to such boosterish things. The state not only refused this request, it did so with extreme prejudice, with scorn and ridicule. Darla Moore essentially said to hell with the Legislature, and just used her own money. Her expenditures on Lake City over the last few years have been in eight figures annually. The Bean Market now houses local economic development offices, an indoor farmer’s market, and a rental venue for private functions. It’s at the centerpiece of a growing downtown complex that features a museum dedicated to agriculture-themed art, an outdoor performing arts venue, new upscale shops and restaurants, and a soon-to-be hotel — all aimed at bringing visitors through the community and building back its economy. Anyway, I thought maybe y’all should know some of that.
- I loved what Harvey Peeler said about how even though the governor has now given four of these speeches, she “still has that new car smell.” He can turn a phrase. Not for nothing is he the best Tweeter in the Senate…