SC Gov. Nikki Haley vetoes $12,000 pay raise for lawmakers

ccope@thestate.com, ashain@thestate.comJune 12, 2014 

SC Governor Civil Rights

FILE - Aug. 13, 2011 file photo, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley speaks in Charleston, S.C.

ALICE KEENEY — AP

  • Haley’s vetoes

    Gov. Nikki Haley vetoed $18.5 million in the state’s $7 billion general fund budget. She said some of her vetoes were because some agencies are growing too quickly, other items were legislative pork and others were not the proper role of government.

    •  $2 million for the lieutenant governor’s office for caregivers through the Home and Community Based Services program. Haley said the lieutenant governor’s state budget is growing too quickly — nearly tripling over the past four years.

    •  $1 million for a state tourism grant program to promote "Undiscovered South Carolina." Haley said she wanted the money to be used to make repairs and upgrades at state parks.

    •  $2 million for grants to youth soccer programs plus $75,000 for the Carolina Panthers’ training camp at Wofford College in Spartanburg and $300,000 for a bowl game in Charleston.

    •  A study committee to look at expanding the state’s Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act.

    •  $450,000 in S.C. lottery profits earmarked for three private colleges that Haley said could help financially struggling S.C. State University, a public school that has a $13.6 million deficit.

    •  $405,000 for six new positions in Clemson’s Public Service Activities program. Haley said she wants to limit growth of the Clemson program to a more sustainable level.

    •  $100,000 to ensure a swimming pool in Walhalla complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act and $200,000 for a special-needs park in Myrtle Beach. Haley said communities must pay for local pools and playgrounds, not the state.

    “There’s always earmarks and pork projects so there are going to be people upset that we got rid of their swimming pools,” Haley said. “That’s always going to be a part of what we (veto).”

  • Haley’s vetoes since taking office

    The amount of proposed state spending that Gov. Haley vetoed this year was a record low. Legislators will decide next week whether to sustain or override Haley’s vetoes.

    2011: 35 vetoes for $213 million

    2012: 81 vetoes for $67.5 million

    2013: 81 vetoes for $94 million

    2014: 76 vetoes for $18.5 million

Gov. Nikki Haley on Thursday vetoed $12,000-a-year pay raises that legislators voted to give themselves.

That veto was among 76, cutting $18.5 million from the $7 billion general fund budget that the General Assembly approved for the fiscal year starting July 1, issued by Haley.

“I don’t fault legislators for wanting a pay raise,” Haley said. "I fault the way that this was done.”

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Haley said she told lawmakers throughout the budget process that she would veto the pay raise. Haley, a former state representative, said any raise for lawmakers should be decided by voters in a referendum.

The amount cut by Haley’s vetoes is by far the smallest since she took office in 2011.

Haley tried to cut $94 million from the budget last year — though more than half came from one project. She called for cutting $67.5 million in 2012 and $213 million in 2011.

In each year, however, legislators overturned the majority of her vetoes. They will return to Columbia Tuesday to decide whether to sustain or overturn her latest vetoes. It would take a vote of two-thirds of both the House and Senate to override the vetoes.

The number of vetoes that Haley issued this year is on par with the number she announced in the previous two years, 81 each. Some of the vetoes issued Thursday are tied to measures that had no spending attached for the budget year that starts July 1.

House Majority Leader Bruce Bannister, R-Greenville, said he is not sure whether the House will sustain or override Haley’s veto of the pay raise for lawmakers.

He said some representatives think the raise is appropriate and others do not. Bannister said he likely would vote to override the veto.

“We ought to make it attractive for good, qualified people to offer to serve in Columbia,” he said.

House Ways and Means chairman Brian White said he would vote to override the pay-raise veto. The Anderson Republican said the raise is justified because legislative districts have grown in population and legislators’ expenses, such as for gas, have increased.

However, Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler, R-Cherokee, said he thinks the Senate will sustain the veto, adding he will vote to uphold Haley’s action.

White predicted some of Haley’s other line-item vetoes will be overridden.

“If it’s made it through both bodies, and we voted on it throughout the whole process ... generally it will make it all the way through,” White said.

The overall state budget is $25 billion, including federal money and fees. Lawmakers only decide on where the $7 billion in the general fund, made up largely of state income and sales taxes, is spent.

Haley, who is seeking a second term in November, said she and lawmakers agreed more on the budget than in the past. The General Assembly approved $180 million for her education initiative, including reading coaches and technology improvements. She did not veto any money for K-12 education.

“We came back with a budget that is very much in line with where we want to go as a state,” Haley said. “It is extremely focused on making education a priority, and I can’t thank the House and Senate members enough for just having that dialogue with us. ... It is really nice to see how we are all starting to work together.”

The governor upheld a budget item that requires the College of Charleston and University of South Carolina-Upstate to spend a total of $70,000 to teach the U.S. founding documents. Legislators doled out that punishment because the schools assigned two gay-themed books to freshmen last year.

Haley said she said appreciated the compromise reached by lawmakers, who originally cut the money.

Also, for the first time since taking office in 2011, Haley did not veto all state money for the S.C. Arts Commission. She said the agency has become more frugal in its spending.

The controversial certificate-of-need program also survived Haley’s vetoes. That program requires hospitals and medical providers to seek approval from state regulators for large construction projects or equipment purchases. Lawmakers sustained Haley's veto of the program last year.

However, hospitals and other groups sued and the S.C. Supreme Court reinstated the program. Haley said she is abiding by the court decision, though she criticized the program as only benefiting lawyers who argue cases before state regulators.

Reach Cope at (803) 771-8657. Reach Shain at (803) 771-8619.

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