Text of the Democratic response to the SC State of the State speech


COLUMBIA, SC (AP) — South Carolina Rep. Spencer Wetmore’s Democratic response to Gov. Henry McMaster’s state of play statements prepared for Wednesday’s delivery:

Good evening! My name is Spencer Wetmore. I’m a new member of the South Carolina House of Representatives and proud to represent many of Charleston County’s coastal areas. My husband and I live in Folly Beach with our two daughters, Brooks and Lola Kate. I was fortunate 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 we’ve all experienced. Parents of young children who have returned home from school can tell you what a renewed appreciation we have for our schools and teachers. We have all been reminded that we cannot live without our local businesses and restaurants, and we are grateful for the state’s economic engines, big and small, that bring good jobs to our families and neighbors.

If you’re tuned in tonight and hoping for an over-the-top partisan attack on the governor, this may not be your speech. Actually, I’d like 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 democratic vision of South Carolina about how we can and must do better.

I tell my daughters every day that there are words and deeds. The people of South Carolina are watching our actions. While the governor’s words paint a picture of trying to solve problems that have persisted for decades, his actions often focus on political extremism. We need real results for South Carolina families, not wasting precious time on fear and division. It’s time to drop the annoying boast and remember that we represent all South Carolina residents, not just the less than 20% who vote in the Republican primary. We must fight for the hard working families of South Carolina. In other words, the majority of us.

That is why, tonight, I call on my colleagues to reject bitter partisanship, extremism and the harsh rhetoric that goes with it. These are yesterday’s strategies and we need leadership for tomorrow. It’s time to stop just focusing 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 across the aisle strive for every day. We’re rolling up our sleeves and working together to make this amazing state the best it can be. We invite the governor to join us.

First, let’s work together to provide tax breaks to working families who actually need them. And that’s what we’re doing in this legislative period.

Let’s work together to meet our state’s critical infrastructure repair needs. Nothing exemplifies a broken political system like crumbling infrastructure, and it’s embarrassing how far South Carolina has fallen behind. We are 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 morning, in the water systems that provide our children with safe drinking water, in the sewers that keep our waterways clean, in the broadband infrastructure that connects us, and in the rainwater systems that keep our homes from flooding.

Let’s work together to protect our beautiful mountains, lakes, rivers, swamps and beaches. Pollution, overdevelopment, and yes, climate change all pose serious threats to our environment. These natural resources are what we love about our state. This beauty is at the heart of our recreation, tourism, economy and way of life. We have a responsibility to manage these resources, and partisan bickering is 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 social benefits so that young people growing up in these communities have the opportunity to stay and raise their families. High-speed Internet access, help for small businesses, and support for rural hospitals are vital to small town South Carolina.

Let’s pass the Medical Marijuana Act to alleviate the suffering of South Carolina families living with chronic illnesses.

Let’s finally expand Medicaid so that all working people can afford decent healthcare. Too many working people fall through the cracks by making too much money to qualify for Medicaid, but still not enough to afford overpriced health insurance. While other states have expanded Medicaid, South Carolina continues to fail our working families. Let’s face reality – if our neighbors don’t have health insurance, we all pay.

Let’s work together to improve and protect our public schools. You can’t fix schools by depriving them of funding, and we have to reject this latest coupon bill. It takes money from our public school system to fund private academies. I have nothing against private schools, but public money should be spent on public schools. Parents should be given more choices for innovation, enrichment and comprehensive services within the district. And our teachers deserve respect and raises instead of kind words and coffee cups. We still have a long way to go to ensure consistent funding for public schools across South Carolina.

Let’s do more to fight the state’s rising crime rate. The most important task of the state is to protect its citizens. South Carolina last year experienced its highest homicide rate in recorded history. The state is not responding adequately to this deadly situation. As a former prosecutor, I can assure you that law enforcement assistance needs to be more than a bumper sticker. And let’s be clear – you 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 enabling stronger enforcement of those laws. We need to reform the process of political redistribution so that politicians are accountable to all voters, not just those in their political base. We need more transparency in state government, and we need to ensure that our ethics and electoral commissions and staff are as independent as possible and free from partisan pressures of any kind.

Our state has limitless potential. But we cannot go on following the old politics of the past. I hope you will join me in rejecting political extremism, bigotry, and the divisive rhetoric that has exploded in recent years. When we pay more attention to working families like yours and less to the angry, loud voices on social media, we can actually work together, roll up our sleeves, and make the advances our state needs.

I wish you a healthy, peaceful and prosperous New Year. Take care of your families and each other. Let’s greet this year together as we move toward South Carolina’s bright future.

Thanks very much.


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