COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — GOP Gov. Nikki Haley’s successful push to remove the Confederate flag from South Carolina’s Statehouse grounds following last month’s massacre at a historic black church has boosted her national profile. But that transpired over just a few weeks of the five years she’s been in office.
Here are a few other successes and some of her stumbles:
Haley has successfully branded herself a jobs governor, propelling her to re-election last year. Major announcements include Boeing’s decision in April 2013 to create 2,000 additional jobs at its North Charleston plant after legislators passed a $120 million incentives package she eagerly signed.
Michelin, Bridgestone, Continental, Trelleborg and Giti Tire also have announced new or expanded facilities in recent years, making South Carolina the nation’s tire capital.
But early in her tenure, legislators blasted her as nearly torpedoing an economic deal negotiated by her predecessor. She opposed giving Amazon a temporary exemption from collecting state sales taxes in exchange for 2,000 jobs. The bill eventually became law in June 2011 without her signature.
Since then, her administration has actively used incentives to bring companies to the state — angering tea party activists who helped put her in office. In May, Haley and her Commerce agency secured Volvo Car’s first North American plant, and a pledge of 2,000 jobs, by promising more than $200 million in state incentives.
The Associated Press has questioned her administration’s math on the total number of jobs announced since she took office, twice finding her figure was overstated and easily misinterpreted, as thousands of the jobs won’t arrive for years and some have already fallen through.
Minutes after the 2011 regular session ended, Haley ordered legislators back to pass her top agenda items. The GOP-controlled Legislature sued, and the state Supreme Court ruled she lacked the authority to make such an order.
Similarly, the state’s high court ruled a panel she chairs should not have disregarded a 2012 legislative agreement in the state budget by raising state employees’ health care premiums.
Haley has called, unsuccessfully, for strengthening South Carolina’s ethics laws. Her push began shortly after the House Ethics Committee cleared her in June 2012 of allegations she illegally lobbied for an engineering firm and a hospital while a House member, benefited from lobbyists donating to the hospital’s foundation, and should have disclosed consulting income from the firm since it had state contracts.
It was the second time in two months the then-GOP-dominated committee cleared her, saying the state’s ethics laws are too ambiguous.
The first vote to clear her came immediately after the committee found probable cause that violations had occurred. The back-to-back votes caused a backlash and led to a formal hearing.
Haley repeatedly said there’s nothing wrong with asking lobbyists to donate to a nonprofit — especially since the foundation paid her a salary, not a commission — and that it was impossible under the state definition for her to lobby for an agency regulation. She said she didn’t report the consulting income because state law doesn’t require it.
Haley has said her own experience led her to push for reform, to make clear what’s right and wrong, so others don’t go through what she did.
In fall 2012, Haley acknowledged state officials didn’t do enough to prevent a hacker from stealing the personal data of 6.4 million people and businesses from the Department of Revenue’s computer servers. The acknowledgement came as a report showed dual verification for access and encrypted Social Security numbers could have prevented the theft. It followed weeks of her saying no one was to blame and nothing differently could have been done.
On the campaign trail last year, Haley sang the praises of a regulatory task force she created, saying it issued more than 3,000 recommendations on how to cut bureaucratic red tape, and all of those recommendations were “dealt” with. Actually, the panel’s report listed less than 50 recommendations, many of which have not been implemented. Her office later clarified that staff worked on each suggestion, whatever the outcome.
In September 2011, Haley acknowledged she couldn’t back up claims that half of people seeking work at the Savannah River Site, a former nuclear weapons manufacturing site now undergoing long-term cleanup, failed their drug tests. She repeatedly made the assertion to advocate linking drug tests to unemployment benefits. The actual number was less than 1 percent.
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