Read the full 2009 Democratic response

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Here's the full text from state Senator Vincent Shaheen's Democratic response to Governor Mark Sanford's 2009 State of the State speech.

Good evening South Carolina. I'm Senator Vincent Sheheen from Camden, and I'm honored tonight to give you the South Carolina Democrats' vision for our state.

First, ask yourself these questions: What kind of a state do you want South Carolina to be?

Do you want it to be a state with one of the highest unemployment levels in the nation?

A state that funds its kids' educations unfairly based on whether they live in a wealthy county or a poor county?

A state whose tax system has become riddled with special interest loopholes that keep tax rates high on the rest of us without meeting government's core mission?

And a state with by far the lowest cigarette tax in the nation, while health insurance is unaffordable to many of its working citizens?

Unfortunately, that's what has happened to South Carolina. This is the path our current leaders have taken us down.  But we can do better.

It doesn't have to be this way. We can chart a different course. It is not too late to change directions.

We are facing one of the greatest financial crises this state has ever seen.  We must use it as an opportunity.  An opportunity to make our state a better place for the future.  We cannot allow it to be used as an excuse to fulfill an anti-government agenda.

But we have to make a choice. Do we want to continue down the same path we have followed for too long or do we want real change.

It has been said that a definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.  Well that's what we've been doing in South Carolina, and it's time we tried something different.

We can no longer afford to follow the same old leaders preaching the same old things.  They say that government can never work and then they try to prove themselves right.  To make government work better, you must first believe that it can work.   

We cannot allow the ideologues who run our state to continue imposing a short sighted vision upon us.  For example, the current administration wants to use this financial crisis as an excuse to get rid of corporate income taxes and place the state's tax burden even more so on the
backs of individuals.  They want to use public tax dollars to fund private schools.  They want us to sit on our hands while the other states engage in a nationwide recovery effort!

Are you satisfied with the direction we are headed in South Carolina? No, and neither am I. 

For the better part of this decade, we have heard excuse after excuse as to why nothing improves in state government.  For the last six years we have seen our leaders bicker about personalities and things that just don't matter.  We've seen pigs and horses brought to the state house by this administration during these squabbles, and we've heard threats to cut off unemployment benefits for people who have recently lost their jobs.  Meanwhile, South Carolina has become a less attractive place for new businesses to locate, develop and create jobs.

While we've been standing still, our neighbors have made great strides. North Carolina and Virginia have seen significant improvement in job growth, education, and healthcare. They have done it through progressive leadership with a positive vision.  We can do the same, if
only we have the will.  In fact, we have done it before in South Carolina. Previous legislatures  and governors have put aside their personal and partisan difference for the betterment of this state.  And we must do it again.

South Carolina Democrats are proud to put forth a new agenda for our state.  An agenda for long term change and improvement in South Carolina.  From government restructuring, to comprehensive tax reform, to affordable health care, and equitable school funding, we have put
forth solutions to the real problems facing our state. And we invite everyone to join us in this effort, regardless of party.  Our state can't wait any longer.  

Job growth, education reform, lower health insurance rates, environmental protects, affordable colleges, regulations on payday lenders- these are the issues that Democrats will make a  priority. These are the issues that will move South Carolina forward.

But we can only do this if you're willing to let us. 

Democrats understand the problems that real people in this state face everyday because we face them too. My kids go to same public schools I went to twenty five years ago.  I work for a living in a small town in South Carolina. I see first-hand the impact of a bad economy and a broken government. We have no time to waste. 

Many in Columbia say it's too late, that we can't undo the damage that has been done to our government and our state. But we can never give up.   South Carolina is a great state with unlimited potential. We have a choice to make, continue to live in the past or move toward the future. I say it's time to get South Carolina moving again.

Good night and God bless.