Gov. Nikki Haley bid South Carolina goodbye “for now” in her State of the State address Wednesday night as she reflected on her time in state government. Haley did not dwell much on the state’s future challenges, besides education, in her speech and gave only a few recommendations for the upcoming legislative session. Instead, her final State of the State address focused on efforts to create the resurgence of South Carolina’s economy post-recession.
Many members in the General Assembly, such as State Rep. Phyllis Henderson, R-Greenville, agreed with Haley’s view and expressed admiration for the work the Governor did in “job development, job creation, bringing in new businesses, bringing in Boeing, bringing in Continental Tire, bringing in Volvo.”
Even Democrats offered praise for Haley’s work on business recruiting, although they noted President Barack Obama deserves credit for a strengthening national economy. State Rep. James Smith, D-Columbia, said he admired the work Haley did as ” a jobs governor.” “She has worked very hard, tirelessly to grow jobs in our state.” Smith went on to say that he wished those accomplishments had also included funding road repairs and Medicaid. He hoped the next governor will work to improve those sectors.
However, he praised Haley for her leadership after Hurricane Matthew, the 2015 floods and the Emanuel AME Church shootings — particularly her decision to call for the Confederate battle flag to be removed from the Statehouse grounds.
Haley’s last address was not a sad event for everyone in the Statehouse, however. State Rep. John King, D-Rock Hill, says South Carolina will benefit with Haley out of town, believing she did very little to get input from both sides of the aisle.
“The best thing that has happened in South Carolina was Donald Trump appoint her to be an Ambassador to the UN and getting her out of the way of progress of South Carolina,” King said when asked about Haley’s time in office. King said the governor did not do much to work with Democrats to get a cohesive bipartisan agenda passed and instead relied on a Republican majority to get legislation into law.
Nearly all legislators on both sides of the aisle lamented the often acrimonious relationship between the Governor’s Office and the General Assembly. But many agreed she was more willing to compromise than her predecessor Mark Sanford.
State Rep. Nathan Ballentine, R-Chapin, was Haley’s former seatmate in the House and perhaps the governor’s closest ally in the chamber. But he did not refute that Haley could be stubborn at times in dealing with the General Assembly. The relationship had been rocky ever since the governor tried to order the House and Senate back into session during the summer of 2011 because they failed to pass a government restructuring bill she thought had the votes. Then-Senate President pro tempore Glenn McConnell sued and the state Supreme Court rebuffed the governor.
But Ballentine insisted that, if anything, the governor was consistent in her approach because, “she tells you what she’s going to do. You might not like it, but she’s at least up front and tells you where she’s going to go.”