COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Nikki Haley's first full day as South Carolina governor included some positive developments for her agenda.
She got approval in both the House and Senate on legislative and administrative matters, she named a key cabinet member and chaired her first Budget and Control meeting.
The new governor's first news conference began a little behind schedule, but it brought word of another change for a major state agency. Haley nominated attorney and former prosecutor Lillian Koller to take over as head of South Carolina's Department of Social Services. "She brings a true amount of experience in a time where South Carolina needs it," said Governor Haley, "She brings a lot of reform and conservatism at a time where South Carolina wants it."
Koller has most recently run Hawaii's Department of Human Services and has a track record of cutting costs and increasing agency performance. "There are opportunities that are being overlooked," claimed Koller, "I'm confident of that, and we will succeed in balancing the budget and improving government services at the same time."
Meanwhile lawmakers gave Haley what she wanted when senators confirmed her choices for directors at Commerce and Labor Licensing and Regulation.
House members voted unanimously to approve a bill that would dramatically increase roll call voting - a transparency measure that Haley has long supported.
The governor also oversaw major leadership change during her first Budget and Control Board meeting.
Longtime agency director Frank Fusco is retiring and will be replaced by former state insurance director Eleanor Kitzman. "What I hope going forward is this is the start of a lot of votes where we are all together and we are showing the people of this state that this is not just about a one time vote," expressed Governor Haley, "This is about really being serious about moving our state forward together."
Governor Haley did get some questions about the pay scale she's set for a couple of her top staffers. Chief of Staff Tim Pearson, who ran her campaign, will make $125,000 a year. Governor Mark Sanford's chief made less than $100,000. Deputy Chief of Staff Trey Walker, who is a close adviser and employee of former Attorney General Henry McMaster, will get a salary of $122,000. Both staffers making considerably more than the governor herself.
Haley defended the pay levels - saying she is within budget, has streamlined her staff, and is expecting those on her staff to do more.