Q&A With Nikki Haley - Candidate For Governor Of South Carolina
Author: Special To C2 Magazine
CH2: Why are you running for governor?
Nikki Haley: I’m an accountant and small businesswoman who saw firsthand how hard it is to make a dollar and how easy it is for government to take it away. I am running for governor because South Carolina needs a leader who is dedicated to creating a competitive business environment in our state. For too long, we have allowed a broken tax system, disjointed infrastructure and sub-par schools to paralyze the competitiveness of South Carolina. We need real tax reform that looks at every single tax and fee to determine the effectiveness of each. We need to eliminate the education bureaucracy that ties up the resources needed in the classroom. We need to prioritize infrastructure and expand South Carolina’s air, land and water transportation capabilities.
CH2: What is the first thing you’ll do when you take office?
NH: Audit every cabinet agency in my administration to find inefficiencies that cost taxpayers money. I then want to implement zero-based budgeting to ensure that wasteful programs are much harder to create in the future. We have a serious spending problem in state government and the best way to fix it is to force state government to operate like a business.
CH2: How will you create jobs?
NH: Creating jobs starts with reforming the tax system, cutting bureaucratic red tape and developing our infrastructure. We need to review our entire tax structure and propose a simpler, more business-friendly tax system that will benefit the people of this state. We must also cut bureaucratic red tape, because our agencies need to operate from the premise that they exist to serve the people and businesses of South Carolina rather than the other way around. Workers’ compensation reform and tort reform are also keys to improving our business climate and creating jobs. We must prioritize our infrastructure by strengthening our ports, looking at additional rail capabilities, expanding our air carriers and properly funding our roads.
CH2: How will you make state government more accountable and better serve the needs of the people of South Carolina?
NH: South Carolinians are strong, resourceful and honest, and they rightfully expect a state government that understands it works for the people and not the other way around. We’re determined to bring it to them. From day one, we will demand accountability and reform across state government. That begins with mandatory voting on-the-record in the legislature, which will bring a conscience to the General Assembly. It is the only true way for the people to know how their legislators are representing them and how tax dollars are being spent. Accountability and reform also means capping state government spending. Government should never grow faster than the taxpayers’ ability to pay for it. We need term limits in Columbia, because government needs a constant influx of fresh faces, fresh voices and fresh ideas. Legislators should be required to disclose the sources of their income so that both the legislator and the public know exactly when and why a legislator should recuse him or herself from a particular vote or process. This will help bring an end to conflicts of interest in the legislature. Finally, it’s time to modernize our state government. Study after study has reached the same conclusion: Our state government is fragmented, unwieldy and unaccountable, making it one that is both too expensive and inefficient rather than one that works for the people and is organized by the needs of those being served. The Haley administration will bring efficiency and accountability to state agencies through reducing the number of constitutional officers from our current nine closer to the national average of four and by moving the day-to-day functions of the Budget and Control Board to an agency in the governor’s cabinet.
CH2: What will you do to improve South Carolina’s public schools?
NH: I have two children in public schools and am fully invested in seeing the quality of our education improve, not just for them, but for all children in South Carolina. Our students deserve a government that is committed to improving our education system, not just throwing dollars at it. Money does not help a child if it has to go through thousands of bureaucrats and 85 school districts to get to the classroom. I went to a rural school in Bamberg where everyone took care of everyone else. I’ve lived in Orangeburg where teachers struggle so much with discipline they don’t have the opportunity to teach—and kids don’t have the opportunities to learn. And now I represent Lexington where every public school is like a private one. That disparity is wrong, any way you look at it. We owe it to every child in this state, no matter where they live, to make their education a priority, and that means completely reforming our education funding formula.
CH2: Do you support charter schools?
NH: South Carolina’s 37 charter schools have successfully integrated themselves into local communities and successfully supplement current education options. While still public schools, these unique institutions have enough autonomy and flexibility to use innovative education techniques, provide outstanding education and focus on specialized areas such as technology, math and science. This allows for an engaged and lively education environment and does not require students to completely leave the public school system in order to find a school that suits them. The answers to expanding charter school use in South Carolina are similar to the ones for other public schools. Improved budgeting practices and allowing flexibility can drive dollars to the classroom, making it financially possible for more charter schools to operate. Alternative teacher certifications for industry-specific vocational programs, combined with generally smaller classrooms, can improve student recovery and high school graduation rates. Finally, these charter endeavors create totally new schools that have a modern mission and measurable goals in place before the first student walks through the door. This can mean fresh starts for thousands of South Carolina’s students every year; this is not an opportunity we can let pass us by.