Text of Democratic response to SC State of the State speech
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina Rep. Spencer Wetmore’s Democratic response to Gov. Henry McMaster’s State of the State remarks as prepared for delivery on Wednesday:
Good evening! My name is Spencer Wetmore. I’m a freshman member of the South Carolina House of Representatives, and I’m proud to represent many of the coastal areas of Charleston County. My husband and I live on Folly Beach with our two daughters, Brooks and Lola Kate. I was blessed to grow up here in South Carolina, spending time between Charleston where I was born and raised and Sumter and Mayesville where most of my family still lives.
I can’t remember a tougher two years for our state than the ones we’ve all been living through. Parents of young children who were home from school can tell you what a renewed appreciation we have for our schools and teachers. We were all reminded that we can’t live without our local businesses and restaurants, and we are thankful for the state’s economic drivers, big and small, that bring good jobs for our families and neighbors.
If you tuned in tonight, hoping for an over-the-top partisan attack on the Governor, this may not be your speech. In fact, I want to start by thanking the Governor for his years of public service, and his staff for their hard work. I am encouraged that we share many priorities for our children and the people of this state. But tonight, I want to share a South Carolina Democratic vision for how we can and must do better.
I tell my daughters every day that there are words and there are actions. The people of South Carolina are watching our actions. While the Governor’s words paint a picture of trying to solve problems that have existed for decades, his actions often focus on political extremism. We need real results for South Carolina families, instead of wasting valuable time on fear and division. It’s time to drop the tiresome grandstanding and remember that we represent all South Carolinians, not just the less than 20% who vote in Republican primaries. We need to fight for the hard-working families of South Carolina. In other words, the majority of us.
So tonight, I call on my colleagues to reject bitter partisanship, extremism and the harsh rhetoric that comes with it. These are strategies of yesterday, and we need leadership for tomorrow. It’s time to stop focusing only on the next election and instead focus on getting things done for this state and for the people who live here.
That’s what South Carolina Democrats and some of our friends on the other side of the aisle strive to do every day. We roll up our sleeves and work together make this amazing state the best it can be. We welcome the Governor to join us.
Let’s start by working together to provide tax relief to working families who actually need it. And let’s do it this legislative session.
Let’s work together to address our state’s critical need for infrastructure repair. Nothing illustrates a broken political system more than crumbling infrastructure, and it’s disgraceful how far South Carolina has fallen behind. We’re fortunate to have received federal money this year, but we need to invest even after the federal money is spent. Let’s invest in the roads and bridges that get us to school and work in the mornings, the water systems that give our children clean drinking water, the sewer systems that keep our waterways clean, the broadband infrastructure that keep us connected, and the stormwater systems that keep our homes from flooding.
Let’s work together to protect our beautiful mountains, lakes, rivers, marshes, and beaches. Pollution, over-development, and yes, climate change all present serious threats to our environment. These natural resources are what we love about our state. This beauty is the heart of our recreation, our tourism, our economy, and our way of life. We have a responsibility to steward these resources, and partisan bickering is only a waste of precious time.
Let’s work together to help our rural communities, the heart and soul of our state. Many of these areas need more industry, better jobs with good benefits so that young people who grow up in these communities have the option of staying there to raise their families. High speed internet access, aid to small businesses, and support for rural hospitals are vital for small-town South Carolina.
Let’s pass the Medical Marijuana bill to help ease the suffering of the South Carolina families living with chronic illnesses.
Let’s finally expand Medicaid so that all working people can afford decent health care. Too many working people fall through the cracks by making too much money to qualify for Medicaid, but still not enough to afford over-priced health insurance. While other states have expanded Medicaid, South Carolina continues to fail our working families. Let’s face reality - when our neighbors don’t have health insurance, we all pay.
Let’s work together to help improve and protect our public schools. You can’t fix schools by defunding them, and we must reject this latest voucher bill. It takes money out of our public school system to fund private academies. I have no objection to private schools, but public money should be spent on public schools. Parents should be given more choices within the district for innovation, enrichment, and wraparound services. And our teachers deserve respect and raises instead of kind words and coffee mugs. We still have a long way to go to ensure consistent equal funding for public schools throughout South Carolina.
Let’s do more to fight the state’s rising crime rate. The most core function of government is to keep its people safe. South Carolina experienced its highest murder rate in recorded history last year. The state is failing to adequately address this deadly situation. As a former prosecutor, I can assure you that supporting law enforcement needs to be more than a bumper sticker. And let’s be clear - one can both support the police and hold them to the high standards the profession demands.
Finally, let’s fight corruption by strengthening our ethics laws and by allowing for stronger enforcement of these laws. We need to reform the political redistricting process so politicians must answer to all voters, not just the ones in their political base. We need more transparency in state government, and we need to ensure that our Ethics and Election Commissions and staffs are as independent as possible and free from partisan pressure of all kinds.
Our state has limitless potential. But we can’t keep following the old politics of the past. I hope you’ll stand with me in rejecting political extremism, grandstanding, and the divisive rhetoric that has exploded in recent years. If we pay more attention to working families like yours and less to the angry, loud voices on social media, we can in fact work together, roll up our sleeves and make the progress that our state needs.
I wish you a healthy, peaceful, and prosperous new year. Take care of your families and each other. Together, let’s welcome this year moving forward towards the bright future of South Carolina.