Nikki Haley Report Card – 2011

Recently, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley has been in the national news after she endorsed Mitt Romney as the Republican presidential nominee.  Romney lags Gingrich in SC polls and this endorsement might provide the momentum to give Romney the boost he needs to close the gap. 

But shortly after Haley’s announcement, several stories like this one from NPR called into question the power of this endorsement due to Governor Haley’s low approval rating in the state.  In the article, Professor Robert Oldendick from the University of South Carolina stated that Haley has been rocked by recent scandals regarding the Savannah Port Decision and her alleged manipulation of the Health Planning Committee (both will be discussed later in this post).  The final paragraph in the NPR article sums up the reason some doubt the bump that Romney will get from her endorsement.  

“In the recent Winthrop poll, Haley’s approval rating among Republicans was 52.5 percent versus 21.7 percent who disapproved. In February, her approval rating was 65.7 percent. That underscores Oldendick’s point that Haley’s ability to help Romney likely isn’t as great as it once was.”

Some Conservatives are upset because Nikki Haley didn’t endorse a “Tea Party Candidate” for the Republican primary but realistically she only had two choices – Mitt and Newt – and I feel she made the right call.  What good would it have been politically for her or South Carolina to pick a more conservative candidate that is going to lose?  She made the right call and I have no issue with her selection.

Full Disclosure here – I’m a resident of South Carolina and I voted for Nikki Haley.  But anyone who follows my posts on national political topics knows I am not inclined to candidate worship nor do I participate in dogmatic support of a political figure while in office.  Politicians work for us and they need to be held accountable to us.  I will use the balance of this post to review the highlights (or Lowlights depending on how you view them) from Governor Haley’s first year in office.

Dredging Up Trouble

South Carolina and Georgia both have a real problem related to their ports in Charleston and Savannah.  With the upcoming widening of the Panama Canal, larger boats will be allowed through and the ports in these two cities aren’t deep enough to handle the larger boats and they’ll eventually wither on the vine unless something is done quickly.  Both states are working to remedy the situation and there was a claim leveled against Governor Haley that she influenced the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control board (DHEC) to allow work in Savannah that would harm the South Carolina ecosystem and give a competitive advantage to the Georgia port.  It appears that some of this attack stems from campaign contributions that Nikki Haley received from a Georgia fundraiser that occurred 10 days before DHEC agreed to give Georgia the dredging permit. 

From the Post and Courier article, DHEC chairman Allan Amsler issued the following statement in defense of Governor Haley:

“There was absolutely no influence brought to bear upon any Board member in this case, especially in the form of financial payments,” Amsler said in a statement. “That suggestion is offensive to a group of people working very hard to protect South Carolina’s resources.”

In my opinion South Carolina and Georgia can work together on this issue and have both states win in the end and this appears to be what Governor Haley is doing as evidenced by her Op-ed in the Post and Courier and her following quote:

“You don’t undercut people in order to beat them; you beat them by winning,” Haley said. She added, “I know we are going to have the strongest ports in the country and we’re getting ready for that, and the companies that we are recruiting are proof of that.”

This really is a case of the Good ‘ole Boys in Columbia not getting their backs scratched and Governor Haley stood up to them and they didn’t like it.  I agree with Governor Haley’s decision on this and don’t see this as a real negative to her leadership.   

Insurance Exchange Kabuki Theatre

After Obamacare was passed in early 2010 and part of this law mandated Stated to set up Insurance Exchanges by 2014 or be forced to join a National Exchange.  Governor Haley set up a committee to investigate these Insurance Exchanges and recommend a course for South Carolina to take.  The recommendation of the exchange was to do neither Federal nor State run exchanges but instead to institutes private exchanges.  I was totally against Obamacare and I am definitely not interested in either a State or Federal run Insurance Exchange since time and time again we see how inefficient government programs are in providing services to its citizens. 

But that is not the whole story

In emails that have been uncovered, it appears that the committee was give direction from Governor Haley to discount both the Federal and State run Insurance Exchanges as shown by the following quote from the Post and Courier:

“In a March 31 email thread that included Haley, her top advisers and the committee member who eventually wrote the report, Haley wrote, “The whole point of this commission should be to figure out how to opt out and how to avoid a federal takeover, NOT create a state exchange,” which is eventually what happened.”

According to the article, to date the State has spent $109,000 of the $1 million allocated to this committee and many are saying it was a waste of money since the conclusions were predetermined. 

“They took the money on the pretense they would conduct an objective analysis of whether the state should do the exchange or not,” said John Crangle, executive director of Common Cause of South Carolina. “But they decided what they were going to find before they even started the research process.”

I can’t disagree with these accusations based on the facts that I have read in this article.  I agree with the committee’s decision (don’t use Federal of State Insurance Exchanges) but they should’ve arrived at that decision based on the independent work of the committee.  It is unclear whether or not the email from Governor Haley influenced the committee but the hint of impropriety does exist.  

I can’t support this kind of political theatre especially when it is done at the expense of taxpayer dollars.  This is what Nikki Haley went to Columbia to stop so I’m willing to give her a “mulligan” on this one.  Prove that the committee acted alone in arriving at their conclusions and admit that trying to influence the process was wrong.  Chalk this up to a rookie mistake, make the necessary corrections at your staff level and then move on.   

It’s the Economy Stupid

But placing aside all these supposed scandals, let’s see how has South Carolina done under the leadership of Governor Haley with regard to jobs.  This is, after all, what matters most to the citizens of South Carolina (at least this citizen) in this economic malaise brought on by Obama and his Liberal miscreants.

The latest report from the Charleston Regional Business Journal states that job growth in 2011 inched up over 2010 with Manufacturing seeing the biggest increases of 5.2% growth.  That isn’t bad considering the debilitating climate of business fostered by the over regulation from the Obama White House.  

 

Douglas Woodward, economist in the research division of the Moore School of Business (University of South Carolina) stated:

“Despite his inherent pessimism as an economist, Woodward said, he sees signs that South Carolina has a bright near-term future. He noted that in its six-month forecast published in October, the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia had South Carolina and Michigan leading the nation in its expectations for growth.”

A Great Day in South Carolina

All things being considered, I’d say it really is a great day in South Carolina as evidenced by:  Bridgestone ($1.2 billion investment), Heritage Golf sponsorship for 5 more years, TD Bank (1,600 new jobs), Amy’s Kitchen (700 new jobs),  Nephron Pharmaceuticals (707 new jobs), Continental Tire (1,700 new jobs) and Governor Haley fighting against the NLRB for Boeing.

Say what you want about her mistakes but at the end of the day she has delivered for South Carolina and I still have faith in her.   I give her a solid “B” but admittedly some of that is from good will afforded a first year governor and not deducting for the mulligan of the Insurance Exchange embarrassment.  If we see more of these political shenanigans then I’ll move from a supporter to a foe faster than you can say Y’all. 

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