South Carolina Rep. Spencer Wetmore’s Democratic response to Governor Henry McMaster’s state-of-the-state remarks, as prepared for delivery on Wednesday:
Good evening! My name is Spencer Wetmore. I am a freshman in the South Carolina House of Representatives and am proud to represent many coastal areas of Charleston County. 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 two tougher years for our state than the ones we’ve all been through. Parents of young children who were home from school can tell you how much we appreciate our schools and our teachers again. We’ve all been reminded that we can’t live without our local businesses and restaurants, and we’re grateful for the state’s economic engines, big and small, that create good jobs for our families and neighbors.
If you’ve been listening tonight expecting an over-the-top partisan attack on the governor, this might not be your pitch. In fact, I want 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 from South Carolina for how we can and must do better.
I tell my daughters every day that there are words and there are actions. The people of South Carolina are watching our actions. While the Governor’s words paint a picture of an attempt to solve problems that have existed for decades, his actions often focus on political extremism. We need real results for South Carolina families, instead of wasting precious time in fear and division. It’s time to ditch the boring grandstanding and remember that we represent all South Carolinians, not just the under 20% who vote in the Republican primaries. We must fight for hard working families in South Carolina. In other words, the majority of us.
So tonight, I call on my colleagues to reject bitter partisanship, extremism and the harsh rhetoric that comes with it. These are yesterday’s strategies, and we need leadership for tomorrow. It’s time to stop focusing only 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 to do every day. We are rolling up our sleeves and working together to make this incredible state the best it can be. We invite the Governor to join us.
Let’s start by working together to provide tax relief to working families who really need it. And let’s do it this legislative session.
Let’s work together to meet our state’s critical need for infrastructure repair. Nothing illustrates a broken political system better than a crumbling infrastructure, and it’s shameful how far South Carolina has fallen behind. We are lucky to have received federal money this year, but we must invest even after the federal money is spent. Invest in the roads and bridges that get us to school and work in the morning, the water systems that give our children clean water, the sewage systems that keep our waterways clean, the broadband infrastructure that keeps us connected and the storm water systems that keep our homes from flooding.
Let’s work together to protect our beautiful mountains, lakes, rivers, marshes 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 central to our recreation, tourism, economy and way of life. We have a responsibility to manage these resources, and partisan bickering is just a waste of valuable 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 benefits so that young people growing up in these communities have the opportunity to stay there to raise their families. High-speed Internet access, help for small businesses, and support for rural hospitals are vital for small towns in South Carolina.
Let’s pass the Medical Marijuana Bill to help alleviate the suffering of South Carolina families living with chronic illnesses.
Let’s finally expand Medicaid so that all workers can afford decent health care. Too many workers fall through the cracks earning 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 – when 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 canceling them, and we need to defeat this latest voucher bill. It takes money from our public school system to fund private academies. I have no objection to private schools, but public money should be spent on public schools. Parents should have more choices within the district for innovation, enrichment and envelopment services. And our teachers deserve respect and lift instead of kind words and coffee mugs. We still have a long way to go to ensure equal and consistent funding for public schools across South Carolina.
Let’s do more to combat the state’s rising crime rate. The most essential function of government is to provide security to its people. South Carolina had its highest murder rate in its history last year. The state fails to adequately address this deadly situation. As a former prosecutor, I can assure you that law enforcement support should be more than just a sticker. And let’s be clear – you can both support the police and hold them to the high standards demanded by the profession.
Finally, let’s fight corruption by strengthening our ethics laws and enabling stricter enforcement of these laws. We need to reform the redistricting process so that politicians must respond 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 election commissions and staff are as independent as possible and free from partisan pressure of all kinds.
Our state has unlimited potential. But we cannot continue to follow the old policies of the past. I hope you will stand with me in rejecting the political extremism, grandstanding and divisive rhetoric that has exploded in recent years. If we pay more attention to working families like yours and less to loud, angry voices on social media, we can actually work together, roll up our sleeves, and make the progress our state needs.
I wish you a healthy, peaceful and prosperous New Year. Take care of your families and each other. Together, let’s welcome this year to a bright future for South Carolina.