Will Haley's promises become success stories?

Gov. Nikki Haley delivers her first State of the State address at the South Carolina Statehouse in Columbia, S.C., Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2011.

Those who watched Gov. Nikki Haley deliver her State of the State speech Wednesday night on SCETV might have wondered: How will I watch her address -- next year?

That's because the public television system -- which gets about half of its $19.8 million budget from state funds -- was one of the few specific things Haley urged to be cut as the state struggles to close a $1 billion budget gap.

It's unclear if legislators will go along, and how South Carolina Educational Television's operations will be affected if they do, but it was just a tiny taste of the "hurt" that Haley acknowledged was on the way. But even adding all her specific cuts together creates a dollar amount that's just a fraction of what must be cut to avoid either a tax increase or an unbalanced budget next year.

But that's not necessarily a bad thing, according to Brian McGee, a communications professor at the College of Charleston.

"Getting to over $800 million of specific cuts is going to take a great deal of work, and I think it would be very challenging to ask the governor in a brief speech to put forward a set of proposals that would add up to that amount," he said. "Nevertheless, it will be a fair question as time moves forward."

Scott Huffmon, associate political science professor at Winthrop University, agreed.

"You remember. Sanford's 'Checklist for Change,' when he was highly specific and virtually none of it got done?" Huffmon said. "Being chock-full of specifics can hurt."

Haley, whose predecessor and political mentor was well known for his rocky relations with his fellow Republicans in the Statehouse, appeared to offer olive branches to lawmakers, calling out several by name and underscoring how they needed to work together and put politics aside.

"She returned to some of her fiery rhetoric, but not in a way that was antagonistic to the Legislature," Huffmon said. "We'll see if the olive branches remain or else get turned into cudgels for smacking each other upside the head."

Haley did not address the deficit in her Cabinet agencies, including the state Department of Health and Human Services. And there were other items not mentioned, even though they were big talking points on the campaign trail, such as tax reform, passing an Arizona-style immigration bill and supporting the state's ports.

But that's also not necessarily a bad thing, McGee said, noting that President Bill Clinton's State of the Union addresses were notorious for being overly long lists of policy proposals that put many to sleep.

Haley did say she didn't want to talk next year about on-the-record voting, spending caps, budget deficits or restructuring. "Those should be success stories delivered to the people this year," she said. "Results matter."

McGee said he was surprised by her emphasis on that because opponents could throw it back at her if those items don't change this year.

"It's a principled commitment consistent with good leadership," McGee said, "but in today's era of the never-ending campaign, there's an element of risk in making such a claim."

While Haley flubbed a few lines, possibly because of inexperience working with a teleprompter, both McGee and Huffmon said she's a good speaker who will improve in her new role.

"Clearly there were points where the teleprompter didn't move as quickly as she was talking. She shouldn't be faulted for that," Huffmon said. "She was poised and confident. The delivery was overall very good."

Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.

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