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Governor Haley sets constructive tone

Richard Eckstrom S.C. Comptroller

In her January 19th State of the State address, Gov. Nikki Haley set a constructive tone for the coming year. I was proud to be there to hear her speak.

“If we move forward together with one vision, we can climb any mountain and prosper through every challenge, no matter how high, no matter how hard,” she said speaking from the historic House Chambers of the State Capitol in Columbia. “The responsibility to get there is a shared one, one that is in large part mine but is not mine alone. The legislature, the people, the governor – we must be committed, together, to moving South Carolina forward.”

Regardless of anyone’s politics, we should all agree that the governor’s message was one that needs to be heard – and heeded.

To be sure, phrases like ”working together” and “cooperation” are routine political buzz-words, tossed around like confetti at a parade. All too often, our politicians talk about the benefit of “working together” one minute, only to engage in political posturing, finger-pointing and partisanship the next.

But our state faces some daunting financial problems, and the current tough times we’re in require a new approach… a renewed willingness to put aside minor differences and work together for the greater good. I’m confident Governor Haley will work to that end and will match her words with her deeds.

In fact, as I sit here writing this community newspaper column, I find myself encouraged. We’re beginning a new day in South Carolina state government – a new legislative session has gotten underway, and there’s a new governor at the helm – which means our state has an opportunity for a fresh start.

And although I’d never be so naïve as to think that political gamesmanship is a thing of the past, it’s my sincere hope and belief that South Carolina leaders -- the governor, the General Assembly, and other state officers like me – will make a special commitment to approach each issue with an open mind and a greater willingness to find common ground with those of differing viewpoints.

The next few months will require a lot of heavy lifting in state government. It won’t be a year for simply trimming the budget, but rather for restructuring government, prioritizing services, and eliminating spending that doesn’t meaningfully improve the lives of South Carolinians. Without question, the 2011 legislative session must be devoted to reducing the size and scope of government, rather than preserving or restoring nice-to-have programs.

Cuts will be painful, and the resulting budget might not be popular with everyone. But the citizens and taxpayers of South Carolina will greatly benefit if state government takes a deeper and more penetrating look at the budget.

While not everyone will agree on which areas should be cut, or how much to cut, it stands to reason that citizens are best served when their leaders work together openly and in a spirit of goodwill, patching together the best ideas from a broad range of opinions. As Governor Haley said, “I think we owe it to each other to communicate from start to finish, so there are no surprises on either side, and most importantly, so that the decisions we make are in the best interests of the citizens we’ve all sworn to serve.”

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