COLUMBIA, SC -- Good evening ladies and gentlemen. It is an honor to speak to you tonight. My name is Harry Ott, and I am the Democratic Leader in the South Carolina House of Representatives.
I won't try to use fancy words to explain the situation we are in. As a Christian and a family man, I believe that you, the people of South Carolina, deserve to be told the plain, simple truth. And sometimes the truth hurts.
We can't trust the people who broke our state to fix it.
As I speak to you tonight, more than 600,000 of you, the citizens of South Carolina, are out of jobs. In these hard times, many families are struggling to pay bills, to put food on the table, and to keep their kids healthy. I understand how hard things are becoming for a lot of us.
We just heard from Governor Sanford. Let me look you in the eye and tell you the rest of the story. I trust you, the people of this state, to make your own decisions about who to trust.
Ladies and Gentlemen, it is time to put our house in order.
We have a hard task ahead of us in 2010. Democrats and Republicans alike are talking about budget cutbacks. These decisions are tough, but necessary. In this process, we should look at the entire tax code, and the entire budget, and make targeted cuts, based on South Carolina values. We must keep critical services in place while getting rid of anything that is truly wasteful.
Many in the State House are hiding behind unelected and unaccountable boards to make these cuts. These politicians do not want to be accountable to you, the voters. We will be pushing for broader reporting of lawmakers' financial ties, and clearer reporting of votes – not just those on the House floor, but many of the critical ones made in committees that go unreported.
Republicans in this state, from top to bottom, talk about being conservative, and yet the Republican government spends more today, as a percentage of what you and I produce, than they did in 2000 when Republicans gained complete control of the State Legislature.
Let me repeat myself.
The Republican government spends more today, as a percentage of what you and I produce, than they did in 2000 when Republicans gained complete control of the State Legislature.
One third more, as a matter of fact.
While you think about how you feel about this, let me remind you of something. This state has a Republican House, a Republican Senate, and a Republican governor. Committees in both houses are dominated by Republicans. Make no mistake, ladies and gentlemen, the Republicans are firmly in control.
Since the Republicans took control, they have shifted control of local governments away from local taxpayers by infringing on the rights of people to make decisions about their own lives. They made their local governments more dependent on the state in the process.
Republicans talk about being conservative, then spend away all of our reserves. Anyone who spends all of their family savings and does not save a little for a rainy day is simply irresponsible.
Democrats in the State House will push for our ethics rules to be strong and strongly enforced. We will push to lift the veil of secrecy so voters can see the influence that special interests and out-of-state money have on state government run by Republicans for more than a decade. South Carolinians can be sure that House Democrats will stand up for open, honest, accountable government.
In these hard times, we must remember where we came from, and where we are going. Sticking to the principles that built this country, like hard work, honest dealings, faith in God, and strong families, we will get past these challenges. Working hard for principled reform is something that should cut across party lines.
Everyone agrees that elected officials have the moral duty to serve the people of South Carolina to the best of their ability. Everyone agrees that elected officials should be held to the highest ethical standards of transparency, morality, and integrity. Everyone agrees that hypocrisy should not be tolerated.
Many Republicans have been talking about values, and then acting contrary to the principles that built this nation. To all of you who continue to support the Republicans in South Carolina, I want to leave you with one question:
Is our state better off today than it was ten years ago?
Thank you ladies and gentlemen, good night, and may God Bless the Great State of South Carolina.