The governor praised the income tax exemption given to military retirement income during her news conference Thursday at which she delivered her veto message concerning the 2016 Appropriations Act.
“I am very, very excited about the military veteran retiree tax (deduction),” she said. “I think veterans make the very best workers, but when they retire early, getting them to come back and invest in South Carolina and work with our industries is a huge thing.”
Members of the Sumter delegation were instrumental in getting the deduction through the General Assembly on the last day of the session but had to accept some reductions in the amount military retirees will be able to deduct.
Sen. Gerald Malloy, D-Darlington, had kept the bill bottled up in the Senate until the final day. Malloy said the state was ignoring the truly needy while lavishing tax breaks on people who are already well off. On June 2, the last day of the session, he relented, provided the deductions were reduced and phased in during five years.
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Rep. Murrell Smith, R-Sumter, said there would be a push next year to increase the deduction and shorten the phase-in for the deduction.
Haley also vetoed a $300,000 appropriation for Sumter Environmental Center at Patriot Park, calling it a local earmark and not a responsible way to fund educational projects.
Another item Haley vetoed was a provision requiring that staffing for school bus maintenance in Lee County remain at current levels, in effect keeping a bus repair shop in Lee County open.
For Lee County residents, it is sort of like the movie “Groundhog Day,” as Haley has vetoed the provision each year of her tenure, only to have the General Assembly vote to override the veto, according to Rep. Grady Brown, D-Bishopville.
“She just won’t take ‘no’ for an answer,” he said.
Brown said he does not understand Haley’s reasoning.
He said that if a school bus breaks down in some parts of Lee County, children would have to wait for a backup bus to come from as much as an hour away.
“We have proven that we would have children on the buses at dark,” he said. “She wants to have buses repaired in Kershaw County, 45 miles away. We don’t do that in Richland County.”
In her veto message, Haley said the proviso amounted to micromanaging the Department of Education.
“This sort of micromanagement only serves to increase the costs of education in one of our most rural, underserved districts,” she said.
Brown, who is retiring this session, will return to Columbia when the House gathers to override vetoes and consider conference committee reports at noon Wednesday.
Ironically, one more vote to override Haley’s annual veto of the Lee County school bus provision may be one of his final official acts after 35 years in the state’s House.
“Unless something changes, next year I won’t have to worry about it,” he said.