Friday and Saturday —while $45,000 of its budget sat in limbo, stuck between the Governor’s Mansion and the State House — the volunteers and staff of Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands sat in the hospital rooms of 10 rape victims across four counties.
Counseling is one of the services provided by the center, one of 15 such rape-crisis centers across the state that saw its budget cut by Gov. Nikki Haley’s budget vetoes. Monday, crisis-center directors from across the state gathered in Columbia to call on lawmakers to overturn the governor’s veto, one of 81 that Haley issued.
House lawmakers return to Columbia today to vote whether to overturn or sustain the governor’s vetoes. Senators return Wednesday. Overturning a veto requires a two-thirds vote in both the state House and Senate.
Haley said she supports the work of the rape-crisis centers but is opposed to how the Legislature tried to pay for them. Her vetoes included $453,680 in one-time money for the crisis centers. Because it is one-time money, it might not be available to spend again next year — which is why Haley said she vetoed it.
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“What seems to have been lost in some of the discussion about this veto is that the governor actually signed off on increased funding for both rape centers and domestic violence prosecution in this budget. They both went up,” Haley spokesman Rob Godfrey said. “This particular earmark was vetoed because it should have been done through a recurring line for the rape-crisis centers program that already exists —not earmarked inside DHEC by legislators with one-time money for a special organization.”
The state budget includes an extra $1.6 million for domestic-violence prosecutions. And recurring money for rape-violence prevention through the Department of Health and Environmental Control increased to $656,689 — a 6 percent increase from last year.
The crisis centers did not get any of the domestic-violence money. And of the DHEC money, they only are guaranteed $403,956. Last year, the state rape crisis centers received $648,111 — a mix of recurring and one-time money.
If lawmakers sustain the governor’s veto, it will amount to a 37 percent budget cut for the crisis centers, according to Pam Jacobs, executive director of the S.C. Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault.
“As a mother, a woman and as a legislator, I too was heartbroken when I heard of the governor’s veto of funding for the rape-crisis centers,” said state Rep. Joan Brady, R-Richland. “Rape-crisis centers provided prevention for over 50,000 young people in our state. That’s elementary school, middle school, high school and colleges. This is an important place to start with this very serious issue.”