Is it Really a Great Day in South Carolina?

By: - April 12, 2012 12:00 am

All of the state employees under the authority of South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley are now required to answer the phones by saying, “It’s a great day in South Carolina. How may I help you?”

The policy’s goal is to encourage positivity and pride about South Carolina while keeping employees focused on customer service. “Coming into office, what I realized was how negative people were,” Haley told Stateline. “I think that’s been the hardest part because I am a positive person by nature, and they were very negative. I kept saying, ‘Well how can we make the state proud?’”

The policy has prompted sarcasm and eye rolls since it was instituted in September, but the Republican governor believes it’s been a great success. “I will tell you that while the media and a couple of legislators thought it was terrible, everybody in my cabinet has appreciated it,” Haley says. “Now I don’t go anywhere inside of my cabinet or outside of it where they don’t say, ‘It’s a great day in South Carolina.’”

Haley says the policy has even expanded beyond its original constituency through voluntary adoption because being positive is contagious. According to Haley, now even the guards who stand outside South Carolina’s Department of Juvenile Justice facilities welcome visitors by saying “It’s a great day in South Carolina.” That change just took off on its own, she says.

But not everyone is convinced that the policy is so great for the state. In fact, two Democratic lawmakers have introduced legislation that would ban agencies from requiring state employees to answer the phone in this way until key indicators show that it actually is a great day in South Carolina. According to state Representatives John Richard King and Wendell Gilliard, that won’t happen until education and rural infrastructure receive sufficient funding, all citizens have health insurance, and the unemployment rate (now 9.1 percent) dips to 5 percent or below.

The bill is unlikely to make it very far in the Republican-controlled legislature.

Haley has waived the phone policy for certain state employees over time. “Victims’ assistance we waived, of course we did,” she says. “But in most cabinets they welcomed it, they appreciated it, and it’s given every one this new happy life to themselves. And now we celebrate our state. We brag about our state. And I will tell you, it has been a great thing for South Carolina.”

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Melissa Maynard

Melissa Maynard oversees the Pew state fiscal health project’s Fiscal 50 online resource, which helps policymakers understand fiscal, economic, and demographic trends affecting their states by tracking tax revenue, reserves, employment rates, Medicaid spending, and other issues important to long-term fiscal health.