QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“I am happy. I will tell you that it’s a lot of (sustained) vetoes. From my days of being a legislator, we never saw that many.”
– Gov. Nikki Haley , whose ambitions evidently were modest, after the Legislature sustained 33 of her 81 budget vetoes, reducing the state’s $6.8 billion by less than one-half of 1 percent
And then, on the 191st day, the S.C. General Assembly rested. A look at what legislators did in last week’s special, two-day session, called to take up Gov. Nikki Haley’s budget vetoes:
Education: The Legislature restored $10 million to the budget to help school districts pay for mandated teacher salary increases. Legislators argued that if the veto stood, districts would have to raise local property taxes to provide the 2 percent raises the budget requires. Haley said she’s not against teachers, but salaries should not be paid with one-time money. Other veto overrides allow the state’s two public residential high schools for academically and artistically gifted students to expand, and upgrades of two residential schools for troubled teens.
Closing fund: The Legislature voted to use $10 million from a national mortgage settlement to close economic-development deals. The veto override will transfer part of the state’s expected $31 million share of that settlement to a Commerce Department fund. Haley argued it is morally wrong to send money to the Commerce Department that’s meant to help people in foreclosure. Her fellow Republicans argued that sending the money to Commerce would bring the jobs people need to pay their mortgages.
Health care: The Legislature voted overwhelmingly to restore $454,000 to support 15 rape-crisis centers statewide. Last year, they helped 5,000 victims. Legislators called Haley’s veto message and subsequent posting on Facebook callous and outrageous, demanding an apology. She repeated the money represents an earmark to a special interest, and legislators should not give money to nonprofits. The Legislature also restored money providing assistance to kidney disease, hemophilia, and sickle cell patients, and funding AIDS prevention programs.
Agencies reopening: Two state agencies re-opened, after legislators overrode Haley’s vetoes that closed them. Haley’s veto of $2.4 million in state taxes for the Arts Commission brought artists to State House grounds to protest. Legislators also restored $428,000 for the Sea Grant Consortium, which works with the state’s universities to conduct coastal research. The vetoes also eliminated the agencies’ federal funding. Haley faulted legislators for the unprecedented situation, sending her a budget two days before the fiscal year started and not having a contingency for the agencies she vetoed last year as well.
Vetoes upheld: The Legislature agreed to eliminate many of the items Haley lambasted as “pork” projects, including $30,000 for an Irmo park and $200,000 to preserve African-American historic sites in Charleston. A plea from state Rep. Andy Patrick, R-Hilton Head Island, failed to save $200,000 to buy land to preserve Mitchelville, the nation’s first community of freed slaves, founded during the Civil War. Other items eliminated included $200,000 for a statewide head lice prevention program, $100,000 for a park in Sumter, and $75,000 for security equipment at the State House.