SUMMERVILLE -- Gov. Nikki Haley said she learned a lesson from criticism over the cost to the taxpayers stemming from her trip the Paris Air Show last summer.
The S.C. Department of Commerce spent about $158,000 on Haley's economic development mission to Europe in June, a trip that included five-star accommodations and a party at the Paris Ritz.
The Post and Courier first reported these expenses, and when Haley appeared before the Kiwanis Club here Thursday, an audience member asked her about it.
"That was a working trip. It was very productive. If I need to go again, I will go again," Haley said.
"What I will tell you is in the future I will question Commerce on who else is going and how much they are spending," she added. "That was my lesson learned from that."
S.C. Department of Commerce Director Bobby Hitt didn't return a message Thursday afternoon.
Haley said she did not know the amount Commerce had spent. "What I knew was me," she said.
"I will tell you that South Carolina was the 'it' kid at the air show," she added, "because Boeing was there. All of their suppliers were there."
The state hasn't landed any new business from the trip so far, but Haley has remained optimistic that it eventually will.
Haley said she and her husband, Michael, who paid his own airfare to Europe and his share of the hotel bill, went to separate sets of appointments to speak with as many companies as possible.
"I did not see the Eiffel Tower. I wish I lived the life the press says I do," she said. "I think I brought home a snow globe for my child and that was it."
Haley said she travels out of state because she has supporters across the country who like what they see happening in South Carolina. "So am I doing fundraising out of state? Yes. Do I do economic development meetings while I'm there? Yes. When we were in Delaware and California, we talked to companies who wanted to come here," she said.
"There is a method to the madness," she added. "I am selling the state the only way I know how."
Haley's opening remarks to the club were very similar to those in her recent public appearances here, where she outlined her accomplishments and her legislative agenda for the coming year.
That agenda includes the creation of a state Department of Administration, phasing out the corporate income tax and simplifying the state's personal income tax, reducing the property tax on manufacturers and reforming the state Department of Transportation.
She also defended her decision to oust Occupy protesters from the Statehouse grounds on Wednesday.
"There's nothing that excites me more than to see the front of that Statehouse with people fighting for what they believe," she said. "What does bother me is when we have mattresses and sleeping bags and tarps and people urinating in the bushes and toilet paper everywhere. It was nasty."
Haley said South Carolina is a state of rules, and every other group except this one has gotten written permission to protest.
She said she told the protesters they had to be gone by 6 p.m., but said she told them they could return the following morning.