Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Little Kabuki at the Statehouse

It looks like Gov. Haley already knows all the moves

By Will Moredock

Gov. Nikki Haley delivered her first State of the State address last week. There was no surprising news and, in light of the sorry economy, little good news. The subtext of the speech was, “More of the same! If you liked Mark Sanford, you'll love Nikki Haley.”

Of course, the General Assembly did not like Gov. Sanford. Sanford and the Legislature regularly performed a little ritualistic kabuki dance, in which the guv would veto dozens  bills at the end of the session.  The solons would then override his vetoes in a marathon day under the Statehouse dome. They all played their ritual roles with style and passion, shook hands and went home.

Don't expect anything like that under Gov. Haley. Judging from their reaction to her speech, the  legislators like what they saw last week. After all, until a couple of weeks ago, she was one of their own. That means a lot in Columbia, even when one of the good old boys is a girl.

An important idea which Haley floated last week was state government reform. She called for putting some of the hodgepodge of state agencies – presumably education, National Guard, treasury, and probably others – into the governor's cabinet. The governor would appoint the heads of those agencies, bringing some much-need coordination and coherence to the executive branch. Nothing wrong with that.

And she would like to have the governor and lieutenant governor run on the same ticket. We've had a couple of recent examples of a Democratic governor serving with a Republican lieutenant governor, or vice versa. That needs to be fixed. Haley also called for taking some of the functions of the state's unique and arcane Budget & Control Board and putting them into a cabinet-level office. Why not put the whole B&C Board in the cabinet? That's where it belongs.

Then came the bad news. We are going to have to cut, cut, cut to make this budget work and some of those cuts are going to hurt. She singled out the Arts Commission and SC ETV and ETV Radio, and I winced. That's hitting me where I live, but I understand her reasoning.

What I don't understand is her failure to say anything reassuring about education. One of the plans on the table is to cut ten days off the school year. Can this ignorant, woebegone state really afford to lose ten days of school each year? It's a question I wish you had addressed, governor. Your silence was ominous.

And what about taxes? Much of our budget crisis stems from our criminally inadequate tax structure. The Tax Realignment Commission studied the problem and just came back with a proposal to raise revenues without raising taxes by eliminating scores of exemptions and loopholes from the tax code. Of course, all those exemptions and loopholes were put there by powerful special interests, and taking them away would create enemies in high places. And so tax reform got no mention in last week's address.

If there was a surprise, it was the vehemence with which Haley attacked healthcare reform, which was passed by Congress last spring. She related how she met with President Obama and asked him to exempt South Carolina from the law. Not surprisingly, the president declined. If Gov. Haley was not aware that the president cannot exempt a state from a federal law, she shows a woeful lack of knowledge regarding the Constitution and the workings of the federal government. If she was aware, and yet staged this kabuki with the president, then bragged about it to the General Assembly and the people of South Carolina, she demonstrated a breathtaking level of cynicism – almost as much cynicism as John Boehner showed in bringing to the floor of the U.S. House a bill to repeal healthcare, knowing that it had not a chance of passing in the Senate. Yes, this was more Republican kabuki choreographed to appease the teabags of the party.

Also for the teabaggers, Haley pledged to stop seeking federal funds for South Carolina. Does she know that for every dollar this state sends to Washington, it receives more than $1.30 in return. Is that ignorance or more kabuki?

Ultimately, Haley's address was a testimony to the failure of state government, as I predict that her entire administration will be. It is a testimony to the failure of one-party rule, which has been the  curse of this state for centuries. It is a testimony to the futility of white people walking in lockstep to the polls each Election Day and casting their vote for the White People's Party. That is the saddest kabuki of all and it ultimately means that when Nikki Haley is done with being governor, this poor old state will still be poor and a just little bit older.

Hail to the Chief.

1 comment:

  1. Governor Haley is doing all the right things that we voters want her to do.

    Hovernor Haley is the next President of the USA