COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - It was another busy day in the Capitol City as Governor Nikki Haley announced a trio of Cabinet picks and addressed concerns about the salaries of key staffers.
Throughout her campaign and now as governor, Haley has been all about saving taxpayer dollars. It's been a central theme in the dozen or so Cabinet nominations she's announced. But for some observers, Haley hasn't been quite so stingy when it comes to the paychecks of the people closest to her.
After eight years of Mark Sanford, the South Carolina Governor's Office is getting a makeover. New Governor Nikki Haley was bringing in personal items that were still being delivered Friday afternoon.
The staffing situation has changed too. Haley has installed her own employee to take calls at the front desk. The governor has hired others who worked on her campaign, giving a number of them impressive salaries. That decision has drawn fire from Haley critics, like Democratic leader Jay Parmley. "Symbolism here is very important and credibility is very important moving forward," said Parmley, :I think she's blown it."
Haley's inner circle includes her former campaign manager. He's now serving as chief of staff and making nearly $20,000 a year more than the governor herself. Haley has three deputy chiefs. One of them is longtime GOP activist Trey Walker, who will pull down almost $123,000. That's also considerably more than Haley's $106,000 salary.
The governor defends her actions, saying she has fewer employees on staff compared to former Governor Mark Sanford and expects more from them. "The only way I can do that is to get the brains, the work ethic, and true passion behind this," stated Haley, "I know that I've got a team that's done that, and I think we've proven that in our first two days in office."
Haley and the state government are grappling with a projected budget shortfall of more than $800 million. She has pounded away at a theme of fiscal restraint, but USC Dean Charles Bierbauer said it's too soon to accuse Haley of saying one thing and doing another. "You have to really lay the job description and the salary side-by-side, and maybe she's changed it," explained Bierbauer, "I'm just not in a position to say she's necessarily done anything wrong. She may be getting good value. She's going to have to answer the perception question."
Haley told WIS News 10 she wanted people who would get the job done and promised to stand by them at the end of the year to show taxpayers what she and her staff have been able to produce.