Haley threatens first veto of session over stricter helmet requirement

COLUMBIA — South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley laid out her first veto threat of the session, saying Tuesday she will reject stricter helmet rules if they reach her desk.


Haley plunged into a crowd of about 150 bikers wearing leathers and pen-packed vests on the opening day of the January to June session. The state now requires helmets for riders and passengers under 21. But for the first time in years, the session is starting with a bill that would require helmets for everyone.

“Tell those guys up in the Legi­slature don’t waste your time because the governor is going to veto it if it comes,” Haley said to cheers.

She called on the crowd to tell legislators to spend their time finishing business from last year and pass measures that would put much of the state’s bureaucracy under an agency she’d control, let voters decide whether governors and lieutenant governors should be elected jointly and give the governor the power to appoint the state’s education superintendent.

Haley, a member of a Lexington County ABATE group, said she still wants people to wear helmets. “I want you to be safe, but I don’t think government should be the one to tell you to do it.”

Instead, Haley said, “we have to focus on jobs. It is jobs, it is spending, it is the economy. It is things that people care about,” Haley said. “It is not mandates. It is not dictating.”

Legislators and Haley have a lot they want to get done. The state has the first operating surplus since before the recession took hold three years ago slowed state finances.

Leaders are calling for phasing out the state’s corporate income tax and lowering the state’s manufacturing property taxes. They say both measures will help create jobs. And Haley wants the state’s income tax brackets streamlined to three from six in a move she says will lower tax bills for eight of 10 taxpayers.

And there’s debate looming on dealing with the state’s pension system and closing a $13 billion gap in cash needed to cover long-term promises.