Governor visits Walgreen’s – Governor Nikki Hayley talks with Walgreen’s employee Bill Partain. The governor was visiting the Walgreen’s Distribution Center near Williamston after speaking at the First Monday Club meeting in Anderson Monday.
By Stan Welch
Governor Nikki Haley’s return to the Anderson area drew a standing room only crowd to the Anderson YMCA Monday. Speaking to the First Monday Club, she wasted little time in stating her theme, which is that the American dream is alive and well in the Palmetto State.
Following her introduction by Williamston resident and conservative radio talk show host Lee Rogers, who described her as a rising star and the real deal, Governor Haley laid out her blueprint for making that dream available to all South Carolinians.
Not surprisingly, jobs is the basis for that blueprint. “If you give someone a job, you take care of a family,” she said. Upon winning the Governor’s job in 2010, she said she began working on a business plan for the state. Tort reform, which capped damages in lawsuits, was one of the first steps taken.
“That told business and industry that we were getting serious about our approach to business. I then replaced the entire DHEC Board with business people, people who understand that time is money. We began streamlining our permitting processes.” She added that eliminating the state income tax is the next crucial step in cementing South Carolina’s growing reputation as a place to do business.
Haley said that it soon became apparent that the entire state had to benefit from the growth and not just urban or populated areas. “We had a program of bonuses for those who brought business or jobs to the state. But we told them the bonuses would be higher for rural projects than urban projects. A tougher sell? Yes, but it worked.”
She boasted that 45 of 46 counties have seen new jobs and industries come. The effects have been dramatic. Since 2011, the state’s unemployment rate has been cut in half, from 11.5% to 5.3%, reflecting the creation of 47,000 new jobs and a capital investment of more than $12 billion.
“We have the number one BMW auto producer in the world in South Carolina. We are the number one tire manufacturer in the nation. These aren’t accidents. South Carolina has worked hard, and as a team to make these things so.” She lauded House Ways and Means Chairman Brian White as a major contributor to that success.
But Haley said that’s not the only way to put people to work. “We used to have an unemployment office that just handed people checks. So we told them ‘not so fast. Let’s find out what these people do, or can do.’ So we started talking to them and matching skills with jobs, and we have taken 20,000 people off of unemployment and put them back to work. Soon, we’ll be applying that same approach to our food stamp programs.”
She also touted a billion dollar roads bill, saying that soon, South Carolinians will be seeing orange cones everywhere. “The importance of adequate infrastructure can’t be overstated. Getting products to markets quickly and cheaply is a key.”
She also mentioned some of the obstacles to such remarkable growth. “Obamacare threatened to push us back at every stage. But we defeated Obamacare, and as long as I am in office, my answer to Obamacare is no, every single day.” She mentioned the court fight with the National Labor Relations Board when Boeing located a plant in the state. “ We did what South Carolina folks do. We got loud and we got the rest of the nation loud. We won that fight, and it’s a good thing we did. Those original one thousand jobs have grown to 8000 jobs today.”
But she acknowledged that there is still a missing piece of the puzzle that will make the American dream available to everyone. “That piece is education. We knew we had to address the effects of poverty on the educational system. So we changed our funding formula. We now allocate twenty per cent more to each child living in poverty, and to each child who is non-English speaking. The circumstances of your birth shouldn’t affect the education you receive. “
She bemoaned the fact that 800,000 adult South Carolinians do not even have a GED. “In a state of less than five million people, that is devastating. Our plan is to have every child in South Carolina reading by the third grade, because if they can’t read, what else can they learn? Reading tutors are being placed in every elementary school. We are making the best use of technology for teachers and students, and we expect real results in just a few years.”
She ended by telling the crowd that South Carolina is proud of itself again, but warning that now is not the time to relax. “We are just getting started, and there is a lot of work to do.”
After speaking to the First Monday Club, Haley visited the Walgreen’s Distribution Center near Williamston.
While there she said she supports eliminating the state income tax as a way of spurring economic growth which would increase in sales tax collections for the state.