Politics & Government

McMaster’s idea of a spending diet

S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster said earlier this year the state needed to go on a spending diet: “Now is not a time to be feasting over desserts.”

Put another way, McMaster was saying state lawmakers should not increase the gas tax to pay for roads. They did. He vetoed the tax hike, and lawmakers quickly overrode his veto with the aim of raising an additional $600 million a year for roads once the gas tax is fully phased in.

But on Monday, McMaster got another shot at trimming the state’s waistline, though his menu may appeal more to the sweet-toothed than the calorie counters.

McMaster vetoed $56.4 million – or about three-quarters of 1 percent – of the state’s roughly $8 billion general fund budget, which takes effect July 1.

His cuts sliced only slightly deeper than did former Gov. Nikki Haley in her later-year vetoes, which ranged from a third of a percent in 2014 to half a percent last year.

McMaster’s vetoes wane in comparison to early Haley cuts.

In her first year as governor, Haley proposed slashing 4 percent, or $213 million, from the state’s then-$5.5 billion budget. Her vetoes included striking an entire agency – S.C. ETV – from the budget, which lawmakers quickly reversed.

Sanford explains Trump comment

U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford did something unusual for a Republican this week, putting politeness over party in saying President Donald Trump’s divisive rhetoric is partly to blame for the shooting that has left one congressman critically injured.

His remarks did not go over well with Republican activists who jeered at him in Facebook posts and on Twitter.

Including one GOP state lawmaker in his district rumored to have an interest in his seat:

“What is most appropriate for this ridiculousness: OMG, WTF, SMH, GMAB or, of course, FML bc he’s my congressman now,” tweeted S.C. Rep. Katie Arrington, R-Dorchester.

Sanford said “sensational media headlines” falsely made it look as though he blamed Trump for the shooting – absolutely not true, he said.

Talking to Anderson Cooper in one of several interviews last week explaining what he meant, Sanford said, “The blame can go on the Republican side, it can go on the Democrat side, but when the president says to somebody in the audience, ‘I wish I could hit you in the face. If not, why don’t you do it and I’ll pay your legal fees,’ we ought to call it for what it is. That’s a problem,” he said.

Sanford declined Friday to offer his assessment of how Trump and his administration have been handling an investigation into Russian interference into the U.S. election.

(The Buzz guesses the congressman did not want to spend another few days explaining himself.)

But he did tell The Buzz, more generally, “We all need to be careful in walking back from the edge of the precipice because what we are playing with is highly, highly fiery stuff.”

That fiery stuff “has destroyed any number of open governments over the years,” he said, warning against the tribalism that is creating an us-versus-them mentality where reason and objective analysis of issues go out the window.

Asked whether he’s worried his Trump comments might cause him trouble if any Republicans try to run against him, Sanford said, “What will be will be. I’ve always tried to play it down the middle ... representing the taxpayer, representing the conservative cause. I’ve done 12 town hall meetings.”

But, as he noted in quoting a political adage, “If you’re explaining in politics, you’re losing, right?”

Two top SC officials spar on Twitter

South Carolina has nine constitutional statewide offices – including the governor – making them an elite bunch in Palmetto State politics.

But a Twitter battle Thursday between two of those elite officials was more suited for the sandbox.

It started when S.C. Treasurer Curtis Loftis made a joke on Twitter after the S.C. Ports Authority was investigating a YouTube conspiracy theorist’s report of a possible “dirty bomb” on a container there. Later proven false, the rumor shut down part of the port temporarily.

“It was not a DIRTY BOMB. It was a PRETTY BLONDE. Her shift is over and she has gone home. All is well,” the Lexington Republican tweeted.

In response, Lt. Gov. Kevin Bryant, R-Anderson, asked Loftis in another tweet: “What does this mean? Belittling a potential threat? Demeaning women?”

Loftis ribbed Bryant, who is keeping open an option to run for governor. (Unless a gubernatorial candidate picks Bryant to run as lieutenant governor on the same ticket, Bryant’s political career will end, at least until he finds another office – such as governor – to seek.)

“Don’t sound so desperate Senator. The primary election for governor is a year away,” Loftis tweeted.

Buzz Bites

Another year, another education study committee – Another panel will take a stab at the perennial question of how to fix S.C. public schools. Ways and Means Chairman Brian White, R-Anderson, has appointed a special committee to look at education funding. White said the state has taken a “piecemeal approach to education policy and funding” for decades and is “now stuck with funding formulas that are overcomplicated and outdated.” Lawmakers have been studying the issue and weighing some bills since the S.C. Supreme Court ordered them in 2014 to fix poor, rural schools.

Special elections Tuesday – Voters in the state’s 5th District will decide who gets to go to Congress: Republican Ralph Norman, a real estate developer, or Democrat Archie Parnell, a former Goldman Sachs financial adviser. Two S.C. House races also will be decided. Former York County Sheriff, Republican Bruce Bryant, and Democrat Bebs Chorak, an education nonprofit retiree, will face off in the S.C. House District 48, which includes Rock Hill in York County. Republican Bill Strickland and Democrat Wendy Brawley face off in the race for S.C. House District 70, replacing the late Richland Democratic state Rep. Joe Neal.

A presidential robocall – President Donald Trump is urging 5th District voters to pick Republican Ralph Norman on June 20. “I need you to get to the polls on Tuesday to vote Republican for Congress,” Trump says in a robocall set for release Monday afternoon. “The liberal Democrats think that they have a chance to steal the seat from you. They’re not going to steal the seat. You can’t let them do that. Don’t let the Democrats stop the progress we’re making fixing Obamacare and Obama’s mess.”