Politics & Government

June 18, 2014

SC senators reject $12,000-a-year pay raise for lawmakers

SC senate fails to override governor’s budget veto thus rejecting a $12,000-a-year raise that they earlier inserted in the state budget.

COLUMBIA, SC State senators voted Wednesday night to reject a $12,000-a-year raise that they earlier inserted in the state budget.

The vote sustained a veto by Gov. Nikki Haley, and came a day after the S.C. House voted to override Haley’s veto and accept the raise.

Thirty-two senators voted to sustain Haley’s veto of the raise, which would cost $2 million a year. Only 10 senators voted to override the veto.

However, the Senate could reconsider the veto Thursday, its final day in session this year. Several senators switched their votes at the last minute Wednesday, a parliamentary maneuver designed to ensure the vote is reconsidered.

As of Wednesday, the House and Senate had sustained $2.7 million of the governor’s $18.5 million in vetoes to the state’s $7 billion general fund budget that takes effect July 1.

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Supporters say the pay raise – a $1,000-a-month increase in legislative expenses – is justified to pay the higher cost of gas as lawmakers travel around their more populous legislative districts.

South Carolina lawmakers now are paid a $10,400 a year salary. They also get $12,000 for in-district expenses. Legislators also receive mileage costs, and $140 a day for hotel accommodations and food costs while the Legislature is session.

Haley vetoed the raise, condemning the way lawmakers went about increasing their pay. She said the raise should be decided by voters.

The pay raise was the last veto to be considered by the Senate, which spent more than six hours going through 61 vetoes the House had voted to overrule.

Senators joined the House in restoring earmarks for museums that Haley had vetoed, including state money for the Woodrow Wilson Family Home in Columbia, the Greenville Children’s Museum and the S.C. Hall of Fame in Myrtle Beach.

“The right way to finance these undertakings is by selling memberships, collecting admissions fees, and soliciting philanthropic support,” Haley said in her veto message. “The wrong way to do it is by earmarking state funds to choose one site over another to support.”

But legislators voted otherwise.

Haley’s veto of $250,000 in state money for the historic Wilson home in Columbia initially was sustained by a 26-18 vote of the Senate. But senators subsequently overrode Haley’s veto by a 34-8 vote.

Former President Woodrow Wilson lived at the home for three years as a teenager. The building was renovated and reopened in February, and a houses a museum on the Reconstruction Era in Columbia and Richland County.

The Senate also agreed with the House to restore $500,000 for a state tourism grant program to promote “Undiscovered South Carolina,” which Haley had vetoed. But the Senate sustained Haley’s veto of another $500,000 for the program.

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