Gov. Nikki Haley issued 76 vetoes that cut $18.5 million from $7 billion in state funds approved by the General Assembly for next year -- including $12,000 a year pay raise for lawmakers.
“I don’t fault legislators for wanting a pay raise,” Haley said. "I fault the way that this was done.”
Haley said she told lawmakers throughout the budget process that she would veto the pay raise they gave themselves. She said lawmakers get plenty of checks, having been one formerly, but said it should be put to voters to decide through a referendum.
The amount cut with this year's proposed vetoes is by far the smallest since Haley took office in 2011.
She tried to punt $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.
The number of vetoes issued this year are on par with the number she announced in the previous two years, 81 each. Some vetoes issued Thursday are tied to measures that had no spending attached for next year's budget.
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 paid $180 million of her education initiative that includes reader 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."
Read Gov. Haley's full veto message below
The governor did not veto a budget item that requires the College of Charleston and University of South Carolina-Upstate to spend a total of $70,000 on teaching the U.S. founding documents as a punishment for assigning two gay-themed books to freshman last year.
Haley said she said appreciated the compromise reached by lawmakers, who originally cut the funding for the schools' freshmen reading program.
Haley also did not veto all the state funding to the S.C. Arts Commission for the first time since taking office 2011. She said the agency has improved its spending over the years.
Another program staying is one that requires hospitals and medical practices to seek state regulatory approval for large construction projects or equipment purchases. Lawmakers sustained Haley's veto of the Certificate of Need program last year that put a halt on medical-related projects.
Hospitals and other medical groups won a suit in the S.C. Supreme Court reinstating the program. Haley said she is abiding by the court decision, though she said the program only benefits lawyers helping with the cases before regulators.
Haley's other vetoes this year included:• $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 to quickly -- nearly tripling over the past four years.
• $405,000 for six new positions for Clemson PSA. Haley said she wants to limit growth of the Clemson PSA to a more sustainable level.
• $100,000 for Americans with Disabilities Act compliance for a public swimming pool in Walhalla and $200,000 for a special needs park in Myrtle Beach. Haley said each community must decide how and if to fund local pools and playgrounds, which are not projects the state should pay for.
• $2 million for grants to youth sports organizations for soccer as well as $75,000 for the Carolina Panthers' training camp at Wofford College in Spartanburg and $300,000 for a bowl game in Charleston.
• $1 million for a state tourism grant program to promote "Undiscovered South Carolina." Haley said she wanted money used to make repairs and upgrades at state parks.
• A study committee to look at participating the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act.
• $450,000 from S.C. lottery funds earmarked for three private colleges that Haley said could go help the financially struggling S.C. State University, a public school that has a $13.6 million deficit.
Lawmakers will return to the State House on Tuesday to take up Haley’s vetoes.
“There’s always earmarks and pork projects so there are going to be people upset that we got rid of their swimming pools and their boats and their rooftops and things like that,” she said. “That’s always going to be a part of what we do.”
Gov. Nikki Haley's vetoes since taking office
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