Gov. Haley talks tough topics for second term

VIDEO: Gov. Haley talks tough topics for second term

COLUMBIA, SC (WCSC) - A variety of hot button issues already lie in plain sight as Gov. Nikki Haley took the oath to start her second term in office on Wednesday.

One of them is the question of whether Haley would suspend Berkeley County Sheriff Wayne DeWitt, who faces charges of drunken driving and leaving the scene of an accident in connection with a Dec. 28 arrest.

Protesters, including a group from the National Action Network, have called not only for DeWitt's resignation but for additional charges, including failure to stop for blue lights and reckless driving, to be filed against DeWitt.

Haley said she would suspend DeWitt if he is indicted.

"You know, elected officials have to be held to a higher standard," Haley said. "It's not an easy life that we lead but we know when we take that oath of office, that there's a responsibility that comes with it. And when there is a lack of responsibility, there is a price to pay for that."

Ethics reform

Haley said the fall from power of former South Carolina Speaker of the House Bobby Harrell is part of a larger picture of ethical failures.

Harrell pleaded guilty to six campaign finance violations and agreed to resign from office in October as part of a plea deal that included an agreement that he pay $93,000 to the state's general fund and turn over about $10,000 remaining in his campaign account. Harrell was placed on three years of probation and agreed not to run for office for at least three years.

"It's not just Bobby Harrell, it's bigger than that. If you look at the last four years, we've indicted a lieutenant governor, we've indicted a state senator, we've indicted the speaker of the house and I've removed eight sheriffs. And that doesn't even count our cabinet agencies. This has been cleanup time."

Haley told the Associated Press over the weekend ethics reform would be her first priority in 2015.

Funding infrastructure

Haley knows the state's highways and bridges are in terrible shape. Estimates indicate it will cost billions of dollars to fix them. But Haley says raising the gas tax is not the way to finance those repairs.

"It's easy to just say let's raise the gas tax," Haley said. "But I'm not going to allow the business climate of this state to slow down in a time that we're getting all these jobs for the people of South Carolina because people say, oh, maybe we need another tax."

One proposal calls for a 25 cent tax per gallon added to the existing 16 cent tax.

A July study by AAA of the Carolinas listed Charleston County having more of the 20 worst bridges in the state than any other county, with nearly half of the county's bridges considered "substandard."

The campaign for the White House

Some have questioned what Haley would do if one of her political friends, like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush or New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, became president and offered her a cabinet position or even choosing her as a vice presidential choice.

But Haley insists she has a job to do in South Carolina.

"I'm staying put," Haley said. "I'm not going anywhere."

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