In these polarizing times, Democrats and Republicans in South Carolina appear to agree about at least one thing: Unionization disputes in their home state are none of the U.S. Senate's business.
After 23 Senate Democrats sent a letter to Boeing's CEO this week urging him to stop fighting the unionization of flight-line workers at the aerospace giant's North Charleston facility, both of the candidates seeking to represent the area in Congress agreed that they should stay out of it — albeit with varying degrees of politeness.
Katie Arrington, the Summerville state lawmaker who defeated U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford in the GOP primary and faces Democrat Joe Cunningham in November, said South Carolina doesn't need Democrats like Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts "telling us how to run our economy."
"Politicians don’t create jobs; businesses do," she said. "Boeing has created thousands of jobs and is responsible for thousands more in the Lowcountry. It is absolutely outrageous that the D.C. Democrats bankrolling Joe Cunningham think they know better than the Lowcountry and Boeing, itself, on how to strengthen our economy and create jobs."
But Cunningham actually agrees with Arrington in this case.
“With all due respect to politicians from Massachusetts and Vermont — this is South Carolina’s business, not theirs," he said. "This is an issue that needs to be worked out by Boeing and the local workers, not politicians from other states.”
James Smith, the Columbia Democrat running governor against Republican incumbent Henry McMaster, said it was "inappropriate" when the governor filed a document to the National Labor Relations Board supporting Boeing's appeal.
"The power of the state should not be lined up on either side, trying to pick a winner," Smith said. "The NLRB has a regulatory role in this; the governor does not. As governor, I would not try to intervene in this."
McMaster's campaign said the governor has no comment about the Democratic senators' Boeing union letter.
Found money for SC lawmakers to spend
South Carolina legislators will have an additional $177 million to spend when they return in January.
The surplus from the fiscal year that ended June 30 is due mostly to higher-than-expected income tax payments and lower-than-expected refunds, according to the state’s economic advisers.
South Carolina finished 2017-18 with the strongest revenue growth in the Southeast, at 6.7 percent, instead of the expected 4.6 percent, state economists said.
But those excess income tax collections don’t mean salaries are skyrocketing. South Carolinians’ wages grew by just 3.5 percent, according to economists’ year-end report presented Wednesday.
They attribute the income growth largely to capital gains — profits on stock sales, aided by December’s stock market rally.
A similar capital gains jump is not expected again.
So, legislators shouldn’t expect economists to give them heaps of additional money to spend when they make their revenue projections for next year.
One member of the state Board of Economic Advisors asked at last week's meeting, “What happens if the Legislature doesn’t spend that $177 million?” — bringing levity to an otherwise dry discussion.
Many in the room chuckled.
Oh, they will.
Haley aide nominated for ambassador role
South Carolina will have another ambassador.
Austin Smith, a former deputy chief of staff to Nikki Haley when she was governor, was nominated by President Donald Trump as one of the four full-rank ambassadors who work under Haley at the United Nations.
Smith joined Haley in New York after she was confirmed as United Nations ambassador in early 2017, serving as her deputy chief of staff for policy.
If confirmed by the Senate, Smith's title will become quite a mouthful — alternate United Nations representative of the United States for special political affairs.
The University of South Carolina product who worked at the state's public health and labor agencies will lead work with the U.N. Security Council — working on resolutions, mandates, briefings and sanctions.
His appointment gives South Carolina four ambassadors — joining Haley; Ed McMullen, Trump's South Carolina presidential campaign chairman who is ambassador to Switzerland; and Thomas Carter, a retired Air Force general who is ambassador to the UN's International Civil Aviation Authority.
Correction: This story was updated to include Thomas Carter as a U.S. ambassador from South Carolina.
Jamie Lovegrove, Seanna Adcox and Andy Shain contributed.